By Gail Collins – The New York Times.
The kids are not alright.
Let’s see now. Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is under investigation for weird cloak-and-daggerish meetings with the Russians. Ivanka just took a bunch of money from the Saudis for her favorite charity. Eric and Don Jr. are traveling the world to promote Trump hotels and golf courses while being looked after by the Secret Service on our dime.
Tiffany is going to law school. If only the others were in law school.
Pop question: Who’s your favorite mini-Trump? I’m sort of attached to Eric, the one who compared waterboarding to a fraternity hazing.
In theory, Eric and Don Jr. are supposed to be totally unconnected to the government, running the family business in a manner so separate from the president that they might easily be working in a totally different dimension.
“I do not talk about the government with him and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something we honor,” Eric told Forbes earlier this year.
Then, Forbes reported, about “two minutes later” Eric volunteered that he’d still be making “profitability reports and stuff like that” to the president. He and Dad are, Eric added, “pretty inseparable.”
Darned tootin’. Besides traveling the world to publicize Trump golf courses and hang out with potential investors, Eric and Donald Jr. are also working the political side of the street. The boys recently met with Republican leaders to discuss 2018 election plans. (Don Jr., by the way, is the one who was recently off shooting prairie dogs during their breeding season.)
Eric’s wife, Lara, was at the meeting, too. More relatives! When she’s not talking with Republican leaders, Lara is active in an animal rights group called the Beagle Freedom Project. It helps find homes for dogs that were used in scientific studies, which is commendable. On the other hand, one of its leaders spent six years in jailfor harassing research workers.
Her father-in-law isn’t really into pets, which is now looking like a good thing. Given the way he operates, if Trump had, say, a cocker spaniel it would probably now be deputy secretary of agriculture.
Lately, the Trump relatives we’ve been hearing most about are Ivanka, an official presidential adviser, and her husband, Jared, whose portfolio includes modernizing government and bringing peace to the Middle East. They recently accompanied the president on his overseas trip — the one that began in Saudi Arabia with fun festivities and the glowing orb.
While the Trumps were there, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates announced they were honoring Ivanka by donating $100 million to a World Bank fund for women entrepreneurs.
Perhaps you remember a presidential debate last fall in which Trump denounced the Clinton Foundation for accepting money from conservative Arab nations like, um, Saudi Arabia. (“You talk about women and women’s rights? So these are people who push gays off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. And yet you take their money.”) Ah, well.
Jared’s current issue is the mysterious back channel he attempted to set up with the Russians. Like so very many things involving this administration, it’s a controversy in which the most positive interpretation is that he had no idea what the hell he was doing.
In December Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russia bank, to talk about setting up a special communication system, apparently so he could talk without American intelligence overhearing.
It had to be disastrous in some way, since Mike Flynn was involved. Among the possible explanations:
A) The incoming administration had directed a 36-year-old real estate developer with no government experience to solve the Syrian crisis while keeping the whole thing secret from everybody except Vladimir Putin.
B) Jared was trying to do a favor for his sister-in-law Lara by setting up a channel to smuggle abused beagles out of Russia.
C) This is something about Russian money backing Trump businesses.
I am of course going for the beagles. But feel free to be cynical.
“We know Kushner’s business operations are in constant need of loans and investors. It’s highly suspicious,” said Fred Wertheimer of the good-government group Democracy 21. He used to specialize in campaign finance reform, but now Wertheimer lives in a world where a president’s daughter joins Dad at a dinner with the Chinese president the very same day she receives trademark rights for selling Ivanka Trump glitz in China.
And speaking of sleazy contacts with foreign investors, last week Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley called for an investigation into “potentially fraudulent statements and misrepresentations” made by a Chinese company promoting deals that seemed to involve U.S. visas for financiers who made big investments in a luxury condo project in New Jersey.
The condos are being developed by Kushner Companies and were being marketed by Jared’s sister. Yes! There’s no end to them.
Stay the course, Tiffany.