Kushner and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows walk on the south lawn of the White House, June 23. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
President Trump has told people in recent days that he regrets following some of son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's political advice — including supporting criminal justice reform — and will stick closer to his own instincts, three people with direct knowledge of the president's thinking tell Axios.
Behind the scenes: One person who spoke with the president interpreted his thinking this way: "No more of Jared's woke s***." Another said Trump has indicated that following Kushner's advice has harmed him politically.
Why it matters: This could be the final straw for federal police reform legislation this year, and it could usher in even more incendiary campaign tactics between now and November.
Details: The sources said the president has resolved to stick to his instincts and jettison any policies that go against them, including ambitious police reform.
- Trump dipped his toe into police reform under pressure after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd — with an executive order that activists considered toothless — but he will likely go no further to restrain law enforcement officers, according to senior administration officials.
- Trump has made clear he wants to support law enforcement unequivocally, and he won't do anything that could be seen as undercutting police.
- Several conservative allies of the president have reached out to him and advised him to reduce Kushner's influence over his re-election campaign.
Yes, but: No adviser to the president has more power over the White House and the campaign than Kushner. And nobody we've spoken to suggested that fundamental dynamic will change. It's always possible that the views Trump expressed recently could just be a passing phase.
- In response to this reporting, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement, "President Trump is very proud of the historic work that he's done to benefit all communities. The First Step Act made historic strides toward rectifying racial disparities in sentencing while his executive order to secure America's streets works with our nation's heroic police officers to ensure we have safe policing and safe communities."
- Another senior White House official pushed back against Axios' reporting, saying: "Numerous anonymous sources have attempted to provide separation between Jared and the president. They have failed for the last three and a half years. They are not going to be successful today either."
Between the lines: Trump never really wanted criminal justice reform, according to people who have discussed the subject with him privately. He's told them he only supported it because Kushner asked him to. Though he has repeatedly trumpeted it as a politically useful policy at times.
- Trump now says privately it was misguided to pursue this policy, undercutting his instincts, and that he probably won't win any more African American support because of it.
- "He truly believes there is a silent majority out there that's going to come out in droves in November," said a source who's talked to the president in recent days.
The president also pays close attention to Fox News' Tucker Carlson. A few weeks ago, in a brutal monologue, Carlson blamed Kushner for giving Trump bad advice.
- "In 2016, Donald Trump ran as a law-and-order candidate because he meant it," Carlson said. "And his views remain fundamentally unchanged today. But the president's famously sharp instincts, the ones that won him the presidency almost four years ago, have been since subverted at every level by Jared Kushner."
- It hasn't escaped Trump's attention that Carlson has recently been the highest-rated host on cable news. Trump, generally skeptical about polls, views television ratings as a kind of substitute poll, according to a person who's discussed the subject with him.
What's next: In the past 24 hours, Trump has issued a series of tweets that leave no ambiguity about where he is heading in this campaign.
- He's tweeted enthusiastically about arresting people who are looting or damaging statues, and he's promised to veto must-pass defense spending legislation if it removes Confederate generals' names from military bases.
In tweets this morning, Trump described "Black Lives Matter" as a "symbol of hate":
- "NYC is cutting Police $'s by ONE BILLION DOLLARS, and yet the @NYCMayor is going to paint a big, expensive, yellow Black Lives Matter sign on Fifth Avenue, denigrating this luxury Avenue. This will further antagonize New York's Finest, who LOVE New York & vividly remember the....
- "....horrible BLM chant, 'Pigs In A Blanket, Fry 'Em Like Bacon'. Maybe our GREAT Police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates & disrespects them, won't let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York's greatest street. Spend this money fighting crime instead!"