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Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner to be senior White House adviser

world Updated: Jan 11, 2017 01:33 IST
Yashwant Raj
Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaks as his son-in-law Jared Kushner (left) and his daughter Ivanka listen at a campaign event in Briarcliff Manor, New York.(Reuters File Photo)

Donald Trump has named his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior adviser, the President-elect’s transition team said on Monday.

Kushner is widely seen as the man who helped Trump win the presidency and the anticipated elevation will make him, for all practical purpose, the president-elect’s most trusted aide.

Kushner, 36, will “work closely” with Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus, according to the announcement, joining them at the top of the White House power hierarchy.

“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted advisor throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” the President-elect said in the announcement.

Henry Kissinger, who has been an adviser to many presidents and a guru to all aspirants, has said Kushner would be the third most powerful voice in the Trump administration after the president himself and vice-president Mike Pence.

But Kushner and not Pence sat in on Trump’s first meeting with a foreign leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also met Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson. He has also had a say in most of his father-in-law’s senior-lever hirings.

Kushner, a real-estate tycoon from a real-state family like his father-in-law, is married to Ivanka Trump, who is also expected to play a major role in the Trump White House, though not in a formal role or with a title like her husband.

The couple, who have three children, set off speculation about the appointment when they moved to DC, in the same neighbourhood as the Obamas plan to — Kalorama — till Sasha, their youngest daughter, graduates from school.

Kushner’s rise within Trump’s inner circle first came to public attention when he and the three adult Trump children — Don Trump, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — ousted then nominee’s powerful campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Lewandowski had apparently tried to marginalise Kushner, assessing, perhaps, his rising clout in the campaign and a threat to his own position. Trump continued to consult Lewandowski but never took him back into the fold formally.

Kushner, who built his business up from a relatively smaller operation he got from his father like Trump, cannot be more dissimilar, apparently. He has the reassured calm of man secure in his skin, quiet and, reportedly, unflappable.

He subscribed to his father-in-law’s bid for the White House after a November 2015 rally in Springfield, Illinois — the same place Barack Obama announced his presidential run in 2007.

“People really saw hope in his message,” Kushner told Forbes magazine in a rare interview for a cover story about Trump’s campaign and victory that ran under a headline: “This guy got Trump elected”.

Kushner went digital and in a way that took Obama campaign’s pioneering use of the technology for electioneering, dutifully and gratefully inherited by the Clinton campaign, to a different level that impressed even the harshest critics of the campaign.

“Jared Kushner is the biggest surprise of the 2016 election,” former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who helped design Clinton campaign’s IT system, told Forbes. “Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources.”

Kushner used raw data about voters and voting tendencies, to drive the campaign’s push on policy and people, and identified voters to target through laser-like messaging never tried before in US elections.

“Jared understood the online world in a way the traditional media folks didn’t,” Schmidt told Forbes. “He managed to assemble a presidential campaign on a shoestring using new technology and won. That’s a big deal.”

That’s high praise. And India, which is seeking common ground and increased contacts with the Trump administration, will be listening.