Trump said to be considering son-in-law Kushner for chief of staff role
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Trump said to be considering son-in-law Kushner for chief of staff role

Senior adviser tasked with administration’s plans for Middle East peace reportedly eyed for key White House role, as US president scrambles to find replacement for Kelly

In this July 25, 2017 file photo, White House Senior Adviser and envoy, Jared Kushner, listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
In this July 25, 2017 file photo, White House Senior Adviser and envoy, Jared Kushner, listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Jared Kushner is being considered for the White House chief of staff position, CBS News reported Thursday.

Kushner met with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of him taking the job and replacing John Kelly, who is set to leave at the end of the year, the outlet reported.

Kushner, an Orthodox Jew who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is tasked with leading the US administration’s Middle East peace efforts and has been serving as Trump’s senior adviser since the president took office.

Trump is scrambling to find a new chief of staff after his first choice to replace Kelly — Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff — bailed at the last minute, and several other potential successors signaled they weren’t interested in the job.

US President Donald Trump listens to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, right, in the Oval Office of the White House on October 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

As quickly as names were being floated, candidates appeared to be pulling themselves from consideration, underscoring the challenges of working for a mercurial president who has acknowledged that he likes to surround himself with chaos and despises any suggestion he’s being managed.

Trump’s administration has set records for staff turnover, and the president has often struggled to attract experienced political professionals, a challenge that has grown more difficult with the upcoming threat of costly Democratic oversight investigations and an uncertain political environment.

Trump has already burned through two chiefs of staff — a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a retired Marine four-star general — subjecting them to regular humiliation and ridicule.

Then White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, left, and Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, arrive for a meeting with business leaders at the White House on January 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s departure from the White House was unceremoniously announced by tweet. Nearly 18 months later, Trump stepped on an orderly succession plan for Kelly, making a surprise Saturday announcement on the White House lawn that the retired general would be leaving by year’s end.

Ayers’ ascension and Kelly’s departure looked like a done deal Friday night, according to multiple people in and close to the administration, with an announcement planned for Monday. Trump and Ayers had discussed the job for months, and the president had already been steering inquiries to the Pence staffer rather than Kelly. These people, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.

But Trump jumped the gun Saturday, and Ayers re-evaluated his decision. While a White House official said Ayers’ decision was driven by a desire to return to Georgia to be closer to his family, people familiar with his thinking said he was also worried about scrutiny of his former political consulting business. He and Trump also could not reach agreement on Ayers’ length of service. Ayers wanted to serve on an interim basis; Trump wanted a two-year commitment.

Jared Kusher, alongside Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, place stones and flowers on a memorial as they pay their respects with US President Donald Trump at the Tree of Life Synagogue following last weekend’s shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 30, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Trump was stung by Ayers’ decision to back out, according to people close to him. The embarrassment comes at a pivotal time for Trump, as he prepares for re-election while facing an expected onslaught of investigations from Democrats who will take control of the House and amid the ongoing Russia probe.

When Trump appoints a replacement for Kelly, he will set a record for most chiefs of staff within the first 24 months of an administration, according to an analysis by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution.

Yet Trump once mocked his predecessor for chief of staff turnover.

“3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can’t manage to pass his agenda,” Trump wrote in a 2012 tweet.

Trump had said Saturday that he would be announcing Kelly’s replacement in the next day or two. But with Ayers no longer waiting in the wings, there is fear that Trump may not have someone in place in time for Kelly’s departure or that he will pick the first person who comes to mind as he tries to counter perceptions that no one wants the position.

Trump has told confidants that he is eager to bring on someone he gets along with as his third chief of staff. While he still had a measure of respect for Kelly, the men’s personal relationship had long been frosty. This time, Trump has told allies, he wants someone he can chat with — trading gossip and complaining about media coverage — as well as someone more attuned politically.

Trump has also told people around him that he misses the more freewheeling feel of the Oval Office under Priebus and would not let his new chief of staff set the kinds of limits he allowed Kelly to impose.

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