WASHINGTON — With a campaign in crisis, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is stepping up to resuscitate a presidential bid that is rapidly spiraling out of control.
Kushner, an Orthodox Jew who observes the Sabbath, departed from his usual practice on Saturday to gather with Trump and a small group of loyalists to devise a strategy for the candidate’s political recovery, according to The New York Times. Kushner, said the Times, “an observant Jew who normally does not work on the Sabbath, was among those who gathered with him on Saturday, although the candidate’s oldest daughter, Ivanka, was not.”
On Friday, audio and video emerged of the Republican nominee boasting in vulgar language about having made unwanted sexual advances on a married woman during a discussion caught on a hot microphone.
The exchange, from 2005, came during a recording for “Access Hollywood,” as the real estate tycoon was making a cameo appearance on the soap opera, “Days of Our Lives.”
“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump told host Billy Bush several months after he married his third wife, Melania. “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said,’I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.'”
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump added, referring to former “Access Hollywood” host Nancy O’Dell. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
Later in the conversation, the two men appear to notice actress Arianne Zucker. That prompted Trump to say: “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he continued. “You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Since this material surfaced, Trump has received intense condemnation from GOP leaders and calls from many to drop out of the race. Trump’s releasing a video apology — which also included him attacking Bill Clinton — did little to assuage the outrage that had already manifested.
On Saturday, a very select faction of Trump’s advisers gathered in his residence and office inside his Fifth Avenue skyscraper to deal with the fallout and prepare for his debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Sunday night.
Kushner, who usually does not work on Saturday to observe the Sabbath, was among those there, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter who converted to Judaism, was not present.
Along with the “Access Hollywood” material, CNN released more audio on Saturday from an extensive review of Trump’s appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show that divulged his discussing Ivanka’s “voluptuous” curves and approved her being called “a piece of ass.”
He also can be heard discussing having threesomes and sex with women while they’re menstruating, as well as walking in on Miss Universe beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms.
The New York Times story said the strategy meetings entailed deliberating over whether Trump and his wife Melania should appear on a talk show together — much the way Bill and Hillary Clinton went on “60 Minutes” after Gennifer Flowers claimed to have had an affair with the then presidential hopeful. Once the Stern tapes were released, however, the idea was nixed.
Trump and his advisers spent the rest of their time considering other courses of action, as well as planning how he should approach his looming debate, and whether he should bring up Bill Clinton’s past.
Sunday night’s debate is town-hall style, which is a more intimate and revealing format, where candidates cannot stand behind a podium and have to respond directly to questions from the audience.
As more and more prominent Republicans withdrew their support from their nominee Saturday, Trump became increasingly unnerved. He spent a great deal of time watching CNN and staying held up in his home and office.
At one point, shortly after 5 p.m., he went outside on the sidewalk of Trump Tower to meet with his supporters who had been waiting for him all day. He spent five minutes shaking hands, pumped his fist in the air and told a reporter he would “100 percent” stay in the race.
In the past, Kushner has advised Trump on a myriad of campaign matters, including the selection of a running mate, which led the The New York Times to describe him as Trump’s “de facto campaign manager.” Kushner also reportedly drafted his father-in-law’s speech at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference.
The highly anticipated debate — which is expected to garner at least 80 million viewers — will air Sunday evening on at 9 p.m. EST.
An earlier version of this article specified that Kushner “broke the Shabbat.” It is not clear that Kushner did so, and so the wording has been corrected.