(JTA) – President Donald Trump praised his son-in-law Jared Kushner for the work he has done in the White House amid FBI scrutiny of Kushner’s contacts with Russia and rumors of tension in their relationship. “Jared is doing a great job for the country,” Trump said in a statement to The New York Times Sunday evening about one of his closest advisers. “I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.”
The Trump-Kushner relationship is “showing unmistakable signs of strain,” the Times reported in an article published Monday on its front page. The relationship had already begun to suffer over Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which Kushner pushed for, and over Kushner’s desire to see White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer fired, according to the newspaper.
The biggest crack in the relationship came over a real estate pitch earlier this month to potential Chinese investors by Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer, in which she pushed the EB-5 visa government program, which awards foreign investors a green card in exchange for investments of at least $500,000 in American development projects that create a minimum of 10 American jobs. The pitch played off the Kushner family’s relationship to Trump and brought up immigration, which are two no-nos for the president, according to the newspaper.
The article noted that Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is resented by some White House staff, who describe him as “Jared Island” in reference to the special status that allows him to wield power and take on a vague portfolio without the same consequences of failure as the rest of the staff.
Jason Greenblatt, the White House adviser on international negotiations, told the Times that Kushner has helped shape policy options on the topic of the Middle East. Greenblatt said that Kushner deserved much of the credit for Trump’s trip last week to the Middle East. “Jared put together all the moving parts,” Greenblatt told the Times. “It went great.”
Kushner is currently under FBI scrutiny as it investigates meetings he had with Russian officials during the transition period following the November election, though it does not mean he is the target of the investigation. Still, unnamed administration officials close to the president reportedly are pushing Kushner to step aside during the investigation.
In December – after the election but before Trump assumed office – Kushner met separately with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington, and Sergey Gorkov, the head of the government-owned Vnesheconombank, which has been subject to U.S. sanctions because of its role in Russia’s occupation of a part of Ukraine. Kushner in March said he was ready to testify about his Russia meetings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.