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As Trump plots political future, close adviser Kushner said missing in action

Some confidants claim Trump blames son-in-law for election loss, while others say former senior adviser taking break from politics and is frustrated with how president ended term

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, looks on during a meeting between US President Donald Trump, left, and leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, May 21, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, looks on during a meeting between US President Donald Trump, left, and leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Riyadh, May 21, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Throughout Donald Trump’s term as US president, Jared Kushner was the former leader’s go-to guy on everything from foreign policy to COVID-19 response, national security and more.

Now, according to CNN, Kushner has largely disappeared from his father-in-law’s orbit, even as Trump seeks to solidify his hold on the Republican party and possibly plan a fresh 2024 run for the presidency.

Multiple sources close to Kushner and Trump who spoke to CNN confirmed that Kushner has taken a step back and has not been involved in Trump’s recent discussions with advisers on the path forward.

Individuals close to the president indicated that Trump was angry at his son-in-law, at least partially blaming him for his 2020 election loss.

“We know the boss isn’t going to blame himself,” one said.

Meanwhile, several people associated with Kushner said it was his choice to take a break, and that his wife and Trump daughter Ivanka had done the same.

“Right now, he’s just checked out of politics,” one person said. Another said Kushner “wants a break,” adding that “the drama of politics wore him down. Eventually, Trump wears everyone down.”

Yet others indicated that Kushner had been put off by Trump’s stubborn refusal to accept the election results and relentless false claims of mass election fraud.

And some noted it appeared to be a pattern with Kushner throughout the administration’s tenure — happy to take credit for successes but disappearing amid crises and controversies.

Days after the 2020 election, unnamed sources quoted by The Associated Press said Kushner had told others he’d approached Trump about conceding defeat in the presidential election, something he has refused to do to this day.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks in Rabat alongside Israeli and Moroccan officials, December 22, 2020 (Judah Ari Gross)

But from a foreign policy standpoint, Kushner ended his stint in Trump’s White House on a high note.

Widely mocked for more than three years as a boyish lightweight, who was best known for his famous wife, troubled property deals and his father’s stint in prison, Kushner scored historic breakthroughs, with four Arab nations since September joining the so-called Abraham Accords with Israel.

Veterans of Middle East diplomacy agree that Kushner moved nimbly after the United Arab Emirates first signaled its willingness to recognize Israel.

Kushner, a family friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, broke decades of US norms on Middle East peacemaking by barely making a pretense of being evenhanded with the Palestinians.

Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and, in a long-delayed Middle East plan unveiled in January 2020, gave the US blessing if Netanyahu wanted to annex much of the West Bank.

Speaking to CNN at the time, Kushner warned the Palestinians, who were offered a limited state, not to “screw up another opportunity like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”

Soft-spoken, thin and always sporting neatly coiffed hair and crisp suits, Kushner contrasts in style, if not goals, from his father-in-law.

Trump gave comedians fodder for jokes by putting Kushner in charge of everything from the Middle East to opioid addiction, but in the Arab world, such familial arrangements showed he spoke for the president.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner in Jerusalem on December 21, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / X90084 / AFP)

Kushner, who turned 40 days before Trump left office, worked quietly and largely bypassed the State Department, whose top Middle East diplomat, asked at a late 2019 congressional hearing about his contribution to the Trump plan, replied, “Um, none.”

Kushner traveled to Morocco for a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with the king and swapped messages on WhatsApp with Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince despite widespread concerns about his human rights record.

In Bahrain, another of the four Arab nations to move to recognize Israel, Kushner last year gathered Gulf executives for dinners and cocktails at a luxury hotel as they waxed about economic opportunities for the Palestinians, whose leadership boycotted the event.

Kushner had initially seen Gulf Arab promises of money as a way to pressure the Palestinians — unsuccessfully — to accept peace on Israel’s terms.

But in mid-2020, UAE strongman Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan — described by former president Barack Obama in his new memoir as the Gulf’s savviest leader — reached out to turn the dynamic on its head.

Netanyahu would drop his plan for annexation. The UAE, in turn, would become the first Arab nation in more than 25 years to recognize Israel — and win the right to buy stealth-capable US F-35s.

Trump and Kushner’s unstated quid pro quos have raised alarm in some quarters, with Democrats opposing the F-35 sale and even some prominent Republicans upset over recognition of Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara.

But Israel, which alone in the region had F-35s, did not object to the sale as it saw the dawn of a new era.

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