May 29, 2017

The shadow Secretary of State

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

While Rex Tillerson fills the official duties of America's top diplomat, Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law, has a parallel foreign policy role that was on full display during Trump's first foreign trip last week.

Why it matters: Kushner is viewed internally as the official most capable of gathering competing viewpoints and translating/presenting the policy to Trump. That's why Trump has put him in charge of issues as big as Middle East peace, and why he has served as point person on the U.S. relationship with China. But he's facing new scrutiny amid reports he tried to set up secret communications with the Russians (to discuss Syria strategy, according to the New York Times).

A White House official told Axios that Kushner was the one who helped plan and oversee the first part of the trip — to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Italy — with the theme of speaking to 3 of the world's biggest religions. During the Saudi Arabia stop, an arms deal Kushner reportedly helped negotiate was finalized.

What Kushner's been up to:

  • Helped negotiate the $100+ billion arms deal that was unveiled during Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Was closely involved in NAFTA discussions and calls from the presidents of Mexico and Canada to Trump (although the exact order of business between Trump and Trudeau is disputed, both versions of the story involve Jared Kushner).
  • Helped facilitate the February meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who he has known for years, and Trump.
  • Helped smooth relations between Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Nieto through his personal bond with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. The two share mutual friends.
  • Had a hand in organizing Trump's meeting with China's President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago in April (Kushner has a good relationship with China's ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai).

What Tillerson's been up to:

  • Foreign trips to Belgium, China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Russia.
  • Meetings with foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japan's President Shinzo Abe and South Korea's president and foreign minister

Bottom line: So far, Tillerson and Kushner seem to be working together smoothly. Tillerson lets Kushner take the lead on Mexico, the Middle East and even China, while Tillerson handles Russia, meets with other world leaders, participates in foreign councils and forums and gives the public briefings. Trump likes that Tillerson is discrete and doesn't elevate himself above the president, and Kushner has told associates he appreciates that there have been few leaks out of State.

Go deeper

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 42 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.