The two family pillars of Trump's presidency

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have emerged as US President Donald Trump's most important advisers, at least for now.
Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have emerged as US President Donald Trump's most important advisers, at least for now. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ivanka, hubby Kushner supplant Bannon to emerge as most important Oval Office advisers

WASHINGTON • One has an office down the hall from the president in the White House; the other just moved into an office a floor up.

One recently visited war-torn Iraq as the president's emissary; the other will soon head to Berlin at the invitation of Germany's chancellor. Both have seats at the table at any meeting they choose to attend, join lunches with foreign leaders and enjoy "walk-in privileges" to the Oval Office.

And with the marginalisation of Mr Steve Bannon, Mr Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump have emerged as President Donald Trump's most important advisers, at least for now.

More openly than any US president before him, Mr Trump is running his West Wing like a family business, and as he has soured on Mr Bannon, his combative chief strategist, he has turned to his daughter and son-in-law.

Their ascendance has some conservative supporters fretting about the rising influence of the urbane young New Yorkers, as some moderates and liberals swallow concerns about nepotism in the hope that the couple will temper the temperamental president.

Still, the couple have achieved few concrete victories. And several administration officials and people close to the family said their move against Mr Bannon was to address what they view as an embarrassing string of failures that may damage the Trump family brand.

"If you think of it as a classic business model, Trump likes to invest in winners because they make more money, and Jared has been pretty consistently winning," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an ally of Mr Trump.

Neither Mr Kushner nor Ms Trump has government experience. Mr Kushner, 36, managed the real estate empire he inherited from his family and bought the New York Observer as a side project.

Ms Trump, 35, ran a fashion brand that appealed to young, urban female consumers likely to align themselves with her father's opponents.

Mr Kushner has expanded his portfolio into a far-ranging set of issues, including Middle East peace, the opioid epidemic, relations with China and Mexico, and reorganising the federal government from top to bottom. "Everything runs through me," he told corporate executives during the transition.

After Mr Kushner's trip to Iraq, White House aides referred to him as the "secretary of state". But they are warier of Ms Trump, who only recently arrived in the West Wing and until now has been a more sporadic player than her ambitious husband.

Initially resistant to a formal role in the administration, Ms Trump took an office and a government position - albeit, like her husband, without accepting a salary - out of concern over the troubles during her father's first couple of months in office.

According to a New York Times commentary last week, however, Mr Bannon is still on the job, and Mr Trump may keep him there, because while he has been disruptive inside the White House, he could be pure nitroglycerin outside.

But there are others who have rushed into the lofty space once occupied by Mr Bannon.

And "Trump's got a new favourite Steve", according to a headline in Politico last Thursday. The story charts the rising fortunes of Mr Bannon's deputy, Mr Stephen Miller, who has been cosying up to Mr Kushner and, according to Politico, complaining that "Bannon tried to take too much credit for Mr Trump's successes".

Today's Steve appreciates where yesterday's went wrong, according to the NYT commentary.

"He understands that if you want to be the Svengali, you have to play the sycophant. That was a performance beyond Bannon's ken. He never had a chance".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'The two family pillars of Trump's presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe