The Memo: Kushner said to be 'digging in' amid troubles

Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerButtigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates Mark Hamill zings Ivanka Trump for 'Star Wars' tweet MORE is willing to do battle with chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE to preserve his position at the center of the White House, more than a half-dozen sources close to the situation tell The Hill.

Kushner, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been buffeted by a succession of troublesome stories.

His security clearance was downgraded after an edict from Kelly. A Washington Post report asserted that officials from at least four foreign nations had mulled how they might try to manipulate him. And The New York Times investigated the circumstances in which large loans were made to his family’s real estate firm after meetings at the White House.

“Jared is casting negative headlines that overshadow the president,” said one GOP operative with ties to the White House. “If Jared’s headlines overshadow the president’s positive news, it’s not going to sit well.” 

Kushner’s troubles extend to a dwindling number of close allies at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave

The shock announcement Wednesday that White House communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me Trump criticizes Fox, which 'isn't working for us anymore' Sarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor MORE was leaving deprived him of one such ally. 

“He and Ivanka were very close to her,” said another source close to the White House. “She was treated like a sibling.”

Kushner is also losing his spokesman, Josh Raffel, who will leave soon. Reed Cordish — a Kushner friend who worked in the White House Office of American Innovation — announced his departure last month. Dina Powell, another Kushner ally who served as deputy national security adviser, left earlier this year. 

Despite all that, confidants of the president cast serious doubt on the idea that Kushner will depart. 

One common refrain from Trump World: He’s not going anywhere. Others cast Kushner’s determination in intensely personal terms. 

The president’s son-in-law “is digging in,” according to a source in Trump’s orbit.

“Ivanka has made the decision she is not leaving the building and Jared is not going to leave Ivanka in the building alone.”

The administration’s official line, viewed with considerable skepticism, is that Kushner’s position has not been weakened at all.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Thursday’s media briefing that Kushner was “still a valued member of the administration, and he is going to continue to focus on the work he’s been doing.”

Kelly himself issued a statement at the height of the security clearance drama that sought to minimize tensions.  

While asserting that he would not get into the specifics of any staff member’s security clearance, Kelly added, “As I told Jared days ago, I have full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties.” 

Kelly also emphasized that “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.” 

There are in fact plenty of people willing to suggest otherwise. 

One Republican operative took a particularly fierce line about how much Kushner and his wife have been diminished.  

"Kelly effectively neutered Jared and Ivanka, rendering them useless," this source asserted. "With Raffel and Hicks gone, they have zero PR department to spin their side of things. The president threw them to the wolves on the security clearances, now it's just matter of time before they are gone."

Others blame Kushner allies for pushing the story that Kelly could be fired amid an earlier controversy over White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned.

But Kushner critics are, for the most part, only willing to talk under cover of anonymity — a fact that attests to continued fear of his power to vanquish internal enemies and the degree to which he retains the ear of his father-in-law.

Still, there is persistent speculation in some quarters that Kushner could exit the White House in the medium term, perhaps to spearhead Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. 

Digital strategist Brad Parscale was appointed to lead that effort earlier this week, but he is seen as a placeholder by many in Trump’s circle. He is also “a Jared guy through and through and through,” according to one source in the president’s orbit.

A different longtime ally of the president predicted “that Jared’s time in the White House is coming to a close. There are remarkable things that he can do for the president outside, and he can have a profound impact as a son-in-law.”

This person added, however, that any effort to get Kushner out of the administration would be extraordinarily sensitive, given his status as a family member. 

“It is very difficult to usher the president’s son-in-law to the exit,” this source said. Forcing the issue “is not what is going to happen here. This is a tender, tenuous negotiation.”

At a recent news conference with the Australian prime minister, Trump sang Kushner’s praises — but also emphasized that any decision about security clearances was up to Kelly. 

This pattern of behavior was in some ways similar to moves leading up to the departure of key figures during the 2016 campaign, including Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiLewandowski told by Fox Business host he was being 'a little slurry' during interview The Hill's Morning Report - New impeachment battle: Pompeo vs. House Dems Lewandowski: 'Fair' to say Senate run might not happen MORE, and, in turn, campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortCuomo signs measure allowing New York to press charges despite presidential pardon Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter He who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper MORE.

“This is the way Trump handles things,” a source close to the White House asserted. “He didn’t fire Corey — he let his kids do it. He didn’t fire Manafort — he had someone else do it. At the time, he was all buddy-buddy with Paul. He likes to play both sides: ‘I love ya, but it’s not my decision.’ ” 

The clearest fact of all amid the current turmoil is that Kushner’s family relationship with the president puts him in a different category to all other advisers — for good and for ill.

“Jared is always going to have people firing arrows at him,” a GOP strategist with White House ties said. “He is always going to be viewed as not a regular staff member but as the president’s son-in-law — which will always put a target on his back.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.