The Corner

Politics & Policy

God Save America from Naïve Princelings

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

God Save America from Naïve Princelings

Just a point to add to Andy McCarthy’s raking Jared Kushner over the coals for the “galactically stupid” idea . . . 

I get why someone who voted for Donald Trump would defend the president. Trump descended that escalator and went about the process of winning over your vote. He did it in the primaries and in the general election.

What I don’t get is any reflexive defense of . . . Jared Kushner. Trump earned your vote, and presumably, some amount of trust. What did Kushner ever do for you?

If someone like, say, Carl Higbie, the former Navy SEAL who is often on CNN International with me and who’s a reliable Trump defender, said he was going to meet with the Russian government in an attempt to establish a back channel of communication, my attitude would be . . . well, he’s a former Navy SEAL, he’s surely been trained in handling classified information, he knows the risks, and he’s put his neck on the line for his country, which probably ought to earn him a least a little bit of trust or the benefit of the doubt.

But Jared Kushner?

He’s a 36-year-old who’s been doing New York City real-estate deals. What the heck does he know about U.S. foreign policy with Russia? Maybe he’s a bright guy, maybe he isn’t, but he surely hasn’t been spending most of his life preparing for handling situations and issues like this.

Now he’s getting his own intelligence briefings?

The inevitable defense is, “the president trusts him.” Yes, but perhaps the president shouldn’t. We’ve already seen one example of president’s interests and the Kushner family’s interests diverging:

The most serious point of contention between the president and his son-in-law, two people familiar with the interactions said, was a video clip this month of Mr. Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer pitching potential investors in Beijing on a Kushner Companies condominium project in Jersey City. At one point, Ms. Meyer — who remains close to Mr. Kushner — dangled the availability of EB-5 visas to the United States as an enticement for Chinese financiers willing to spend $500,000 or more.

For Mr. Trump, Ms. Meyer’s performance violated two major rules: Politically, it undercut his immigration crackdown, and in a personal sense, it smacked of profiteering off Mr. Trump — one of the sins that warrants expulsion from his orbit.

In the following days during routine West Wing meetings, the president made several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family and the visas that were clearly intended to express his annoyance, two aides said. Mr. Kushner did not respond, at least not in earshot.

When you suggest “using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications” – basically, a “SCIF,” or Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility, a room that’s considered bug-free and safe for communicating secret information – you’re basically announcing that you’re doing something that you want to hide from your own government’s counterintelligence agencies.

The version of Kushner’s discussion in the Post sounds terrible; Fox News offered a differing account, contending the Russians suggested the idea using their secure facilities. You’d like to think that even with zero professional foreign-policy experience, Kushner would recognize, “that is a terrible idea. That means Russian intelligence will be able to listen to our discussions, but not U.S. intelligence. I’m basically inviting the FSB to the discussions, but not the National Security Agency.”

I don’t care how much you hate the alleged “deep state” or the NSA or the CIA or the FBI counterintelligence guys. All of the employees at those institutions take an oath of loyalty to the country and to the Constitution. No one in Russia’s government takes that oath. Everyone in the Russian government must be assumed to be acting in Russia’s interest first, which may or may not align with America’s interests, and certainly does not align with America’s top national security interests. If you trust the Russians more than you trust the Americans . . . and you see your interest more aligned with the Russian government than with the American government . . . whose side are you really on?

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