President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerHouse panel tees up Trump executive privilege fight in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan House panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records MORE is facing an uncertain future at the White House.
Kushner has endured a brutal stretch, punctuated by a reduction in his national security clearance.
That controversy has renewed scrutiny on his business dealings: A bombshell Washington Post story on Tuesday raised questions about whether he is susceptible to blackmail or manipulation by foreign governments.
Kushner has also watched as some of his own allies have hit the exits.
Spokesman Josh Raffel — known for his aggressive dealings with the media in shaping stories about Kushner and wife, Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpTrump Tower debt added to watch list as vacancies rise House panel tees up Trump executive privilege fight in Jan. 6 probe Mary Trump doesn't see her cousins connecting with GOP MORE — has announced his departure. Reed Cordish, a longtime family friend working with Kushner on a government IT overhaul, is also leaving soon.
And on Wednesday, the White House was shaken by the resignation of communications director Hope HicksHope HicksThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan House panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records UPDATED: McEnany, Fox News talks on pause MORE, who has been with President Trump since the beginning of his campaign. She has also been seen as an ally of Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
The Russia investigation also continues to hang over the White House and Kushner.
Those developments have sparked discussion among Republicans close to the White House about whether Kushner might be looking for an opportunity to make a graceful exit.
Several of the administration’s allies say that Trump’s 2020 campaign — which switched into action this week under the leadership of digital guru Brad Parscale, who is close with Kushner — might be the ideal landing spot.
They say it would give him room to operate outside the harsh White House spotlight.
“The White House needs to be asking itself, why is he really here?” said one outside adviser to the administration. “If his function is to negotiate Middle East peace, then not having security clearance will make that difficult to achieve. It’s probably best for him to look for a chance to go out on a high note. He’s become a distraction and joining the campaign would allow him to operate more freely.”
The campaign is already shaping up to be a family affair, with Lara Trump, the wife of Trump’s son Eric TrumpEric TrumpEric Trump lawyer in New York attorney general's fraud case quits Eric Trump to speak at conference led by prominent anti-vaxxers Trump Tower debt added to watch list as vacancies rise MORE, assuming a senior adviser role.
The Trump campaign and a half-dozen administration officials did not respond to requests for comment, although some White House allies privately said they don’t believe Kushner is going anywhere.
The White House has circled the wagons around Kushner in recent days, describing him as an invaluable contributor and insisting that he’s on board for the long haul.
Chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who made the call on the security clearance reduction, said in a statement that Kushner’s expansive portfolio of foreign policy work would not be affected, although some legal experts disagree.
“As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico,” Kelly said in a statement. “Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the president’s agenda. There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise.”
Some of Trump’s allies, including a few who have long been critical of Kushner, argue the president’s son-in-law has been treated unfairly by the media and his political enemies.
Several fumed over the Washington Post story, which cited anonymous current and former government officials alleging that foreign leaders were looking for ways to use Kushner’s business deals to manipulate U.S. policy.
“That’s nonsense,” said one GOP operative with close ties to the White House who is generally critical of Kushner. “The governments for 100 other countries have tried to figure out how to manipulate every staffer from every previous administration and we do the same thing to them. Hey look — the sun is rising in the East. Jared isn’t susceptible to this, give me a break.”
Still, even Trump allies are generally baffled by Kushner’s continued presence at the White House, saying the controversies swirling around him are not serving him, the president or the administration.
Several said the flap over security clearances show that Kushner is in over his head, suggesting he only got his job because of his family connections.
Several pinned some of Trump’s worst decisions on Kushner, including the decisions to hire former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE and fire former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGiuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign DOJ watchdog unable to determine if FBI fed Giuliani information ahead of 2016 election Biden sister has book deal, set to publish in April MORE — both of which have created political and legal headaches for the president.
They wonder whether Kushner’s ego or Trump’s blind loyalty explain his continued presence.
“Look, he’s in the White House because he’s the president’s son-in-law,” said one GOP operative. “Nepotism is never a good thing. It’s time for him to go because he’s just complicating the dynamics in the West Wing and creating a massive distraction.”
Kelly made the call on Kushner’s security clearance, leading to a fresh round of leaks and bitter backbiting within an administration that had seen less palace intrigue since the exit of chief strategist Stephen Bannon — a Kushner foe.
Kelly’s own status had been in question after his handling of a controversy over a senior aide whose ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse.
But Republicans say Kelly handled the Kushner security clearance matter expertly and may have shielded himself in the process.
One Republican noted that if Kelly is fired now, it will look like it’s because he crossed the president’s son-in-law. And even if Kelly were fired, the White House would still have to reverse what Kelly had done to reinstate Kushner’s standing.
“It was political genius by Kelly,” said one Republican.
Still, the decision over whether Kushner stays or goes is ultimately up to him and Trump, even if his power has been diminished and his West Wing allies have dwindled.
So far, there is no indication that Kushner is preparing to leave — even as pressure among Trump’s allies ramps up.
“There are clearly high costs to keeping him around the White House at this point, and the negative publicity seems to outweigh the benefits of keeping him around,” the outside adviser said.