WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama hosted President-elect Donald Trump in the White House on Thursday — initiating a transition process many thought just days ago would never happen — Trump’s Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner had a tête-à-tête with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
The two were spotted walking together on the White House grounds, while First Lady Michelle Obama also welcomed her incoming successor Melania Trump to tour the residence of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who underwent a rigorous conversion process before they married in 2009.
Kushner played a major role on the campaign, advising his father-in-law on a number of campaign matters, including the selection of a running mate and his speech at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference. The New York Times dubbed him as Trump’s “de facto campaign manager.”
Since Trump stunned the world Tuesday by his upset victory against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, it has been rumored that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is the heavy favorite to become the next chief-of-staff.
Selecting Kushner for that post would be an odd — if not remarkable — step. Family members of the president are traditionally not appointed to key positions in their administration. Nevertheless, Kushner is poised to remain a critical adviser to the incoming president.
The first meeting between Obama and Trump on Thursday — a surreal moment after a highly unpredictable and bitter campaign — focused mostly on the transition process, including staffing, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Obama said during their brief remarks to reporters that the conversation was “wide-ranging” and included some focus on foreign policy issues.
It’s not clear whether the president made any plea for his incoming successor to refrain from dismantling much of what he’s accomplished over the past eight years, including his signature Affordable Care Act.
But Earnest indicated during a press conference shortly after the two met that Obama would explain to Trump the policies he’s enacted that he hopes will not be reversed.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell emphasized the GOP-led Congress would work quickly to abrogate Obama’s healthcare law with the backing of their new president.
McConnell met with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence later on Thursday.