Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a “cuck” and a “globalist” during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast.
The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been “nonstop” in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. It’s been an “open secret” that Bannon and Kushner often clash “face-to-face,” according to senior officials.
One official said Bannon has lately complained about Kushner trying to “shiv him and push him out the door” and likened him to a fifth column in the White House.
“[Steve] recently vented to us about Jared being a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’…He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative,’” the administration official told The Daily Beast.
“Cuckservative,” a portmanteau of “cuckold” and “conservative,” has become a favorite slur on the right, used like a sexually and racially charged version of “RINO,” a Republican In Name Only. “Globalist” is a term typically used by nationalist, pro-Trump right-wingers against political opponents; however, the term has also come under fire for at times carrying anti-Semitic tones. (Kushner is Jewish.)
Bannon is a self-described “nationalist” and long-time Republican, while Kushner was, until his father-in-law ran for president, a lifelong liberal and a Democratic donor.
“There’s a big fight [going on],” one senior official said. “It’s all about policy. There’s tension [between them] on trade, health care, immigration, taxes, [terrorism]—you name it.”
The White House and Bannon did not respond to emails seeking comment.
One senior Trump aide said that Bannon was also frustrated with Kushner “continuing to bring in Zeke Emanuel to discuss health care options,” for instance. The aide said Emanuel has had three White House meetings, including one with Trump.
In 2009, conservatives called Emanuel “Dr. Death” for advocating for end-of-life consultations during the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. (He is also the brother of Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.)
“Steve thinks Jared is worse than a Democrat, basically,” another official close to Bannon said. “[Steve] has a very specific vision for what he believes, and what he shares [ideologically] with Trump. And he has for a long time now seen [Jared] as a major obstacle to achieving that.”
Bannon was removed from his post on the National Security Council on Wednesday. One senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast on Wednesday morning that Bannon was “only on [NSC] to babysit [Michael] Flynn” because Trump “was losing faith” in Flynn, and that Bannon “never went to meetings.”
The official also said that the removal had been planned for a while and that it was “in the works from the day” Bannon met National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Another senior aide told the Beast that “that’s [all] spin and CYA, but fine,” but mentioned that Bannon still has security clearance.
Furthermore, two big efforts spearheaded by Bannon in the Trump administration recently failed. Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive orders, crafted in large part by Bannon, are at best indefinitely tied up in court, and his pugilistic push on Trumpcare — which included Bannon urging Trump to “keep a s**t list” of Republicans who opposed him — didn’t get the job done.
On Wednesday, Politico and The New York Times reported that things had gotten so heated and tense that Bannon was even considering tendering his resignation. Bannon told Politico this was “total nonsense.”
However, it’s clear that Kushner has been expanding his reach and level of influence in Trump’s core circle of advisers, and that the two men are essentially working against one another as they attempt to keep the president’s ear and affections.
“I love a gunfight,” Bannon told his associates and allies since Wednesday, according to Axios.
The Times also reported that “Bannon’s Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing’s only leading man,” and that “several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda—and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the ‘President Bannon’ puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter.”
A Republican source close to Trump told The Daily Beast confirmed this level of insecurity over Bannon’s reputation coming from the president, and mentioned that the president was “irked” after catching a glimpse of a recent cold-open on Saturday Night Live.
Bannon was depicted as a Grim Reaper character who manipulates Alec Baldwin’s President Trump into sowing global chaos and diplomatic breakdown. At the end of the scene, “Bannon” tells Trump to give him his Oval Office desk back. Baldwin’s Trump calls the Reaper “Mr. President,” and then proceeds to go sit at his own much smaller, shorter desk, where the president plays with a kid’s toy instead of governing.
“Did you see this crap?” Trump asked the confidante, referring to the SNL sketch.
For the time being, both Bannon and Kushner, and their respective allies in the White House, are digging in for a cold, if not increasingly hotter, war. For instance, Bannon’s far-right media allies are ready to wage a sustained war on their new enemy, Kushner.
“Jared Kushner, perhaps the one presidential aide who cannot be fired, is now in regular text message communications with Joe Scarborough,” Roger Stone, a former longtime political adviser to Trump, claimed on Alex Jones’s show. “Many of the anti-Steve Bannon stories that you see, the themes that you see on [MSNBC’s] Morning Joe, are being dictated by Kushner. And while Mr. Kushner’s plate is very full with Middle Eastern peace and the China visit, and so on, in this case I think he is disserving the president.”
“Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, Dina Powell: the three big-government liberals tightening their hold on the White House,” influential right-wing radio host Mark Levin warned on Twitter on Wednesday night. (Daily Beast)
Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald Trump and one of his closest confidants, will join the White House as a senior adviser to the president, Trump announced Monday, while a lawyer assisting the family said that Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, will not immediately take on a formal role.
Kushner, who will not take a salary, is expected to have a broad portfolio that includes government operations, trade deals and Middle East policy, according to a member of Trump’s transition team. In a statement, the transition office said Kushner would work closely with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon to execute Trump’s agenda.
Trump relied heavily on Kushner’s advice during the campaign, and his move to the White House was expected. But ethics experts have raised questions about whether Kushner’s role in the new administration will run up against a federal anti-nepotism law and about how he will separate himself from his real estate business to avoid conflicts of interest.
Kushner’s attorney, WilmerHale partner Jamie Gorelick, said in an interview Monday that Kushner is prepared to resign from his business and divest substantial assets, including foreign investments, before taking a White House position. Gorelick said she is confident that the anti-nepotism statute does not cover Trump’s appointment of Kushner, though she acknowledged that some lawyers take the opposite view.
Ivanka Trump plans to resign from the Trump Organization and step away from her clothing company but will focus — at least in the short term — on settling the family into its new home in Washington, a lawyer working with the family said.
Kushner, 35, has run his family’s multibillion-dollar business over the past decade, after his father pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges.
As Donald Trump campaigned for president, Kushner played a key role, acting as an adviser and gatekeeper. Kushner, whose family has donated to causes in Israel, including West Bank settlements that have been branded illegal by the United Nations, also played a role as a Middle East policy adviser.
“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” Trump said in a statement.
Some ethics experts question whether a Kushner’s appointment would violate the 1967 federal anti-nepotism statute, which came about after President John F. Kennedy named his brother as attorney general. It forbids public officials from hiring family members in agencies or offices they oversee, and explicitly lists sons-in-law as prohibited employees.
Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyers under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, respectively, say they counseled senior White House officials to avoid appointing relatives to West Wing jobs.
But Gorelick said she is confident that the 1967 law does not apply to the White House, which she said is not an agency.
“This is not a close question,” Gorelick said, also citing subsequent law, passed in 1978, that she said allows the president to hire White House staffers “without regard” to federal personnel laws, including the anti-nepotism statute.
“The Justice Department has described this authority as ‘unfettered’ and ‘sweeping,’ ” Gorelick added.
Eisen said in an interview that “reasonable people may come to different views on this” but that he believes Trump’s appointment of Kushner could prompt “some interesting litigation about whether [the 1967 law] applies or not.”
Someone who thinks they are negatively impacted by a Kushner decision could bring suit, Eisen said. On the other hand, “people may not want to knock one of the more reasonable voices out of the White House,” he said, referring to Kushner.
The nepotism issue was examined but not fully resolved in a court case in the early 1990s involving Hillary Clinton’s leadership of a health-care panel.
Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general under President Bill Clinton, said he thinks the law is on Trump’s side, particularly given the 1978 law loosening restrictions on White House appointments.
“It makes good sense, because one should not assume Congress wants to interfere with whom the president wants as his closest advisers in the White House,” Dellinger said.
Kushner has a web of business interests, focused heavily on real estate development.
Though Kushner’s company is focused primarily on development in New York and New Jersey, it has often relied on foreign investment, and its earnings could be influenced by the Trump administration’s trade and foreign-relations policies.
Gorelick said that Kushner would resign as chief executive of the Kushner Cos. and as publisher of the New York Observer, divest all of his common stock and any foreign investments and shed many other assets.
Kushner will also recuse himself from matters that will have a direct impact on his remaining financial interests and abide by other federal ethics rules, Gorelick said.
Karen DeYoung contributed to this report. (The Washington Post)