Jared Kushner in talks to sell stake in real estate tech firm: WSJ

Jared Kushner, a senior level White House official and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, is in talks to sell his stake in a real estate technology company as he attempts to pare his numerous business ties, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

He is in the late stages of negotiating a deal to sell his stake in the company, called WiredScore, to a group of investors that include Los Angeles-based Fifth Wall Ventures, the Journal said. It was unable to determine the price of the stake or the identity of other group members.

Kushner is working to exit other business investments as well, as the Trump administration faces criticism for not doing enough to rid its senior officials of potential conflicts of interest.

He disclosed earlier this year that his stake in the WiredScore was worth $5 million to $25 million. Founded in 2013, WiredScore assesses the speed and quality of office buildings' internet connections.

Earlier this year, Kushner said in a federal disclosure form that he was "in the divestment process" of his holdings in WiredScore's owner, Broadband Proliferation LLC, where he is a managing member.

FILE PHOTO -- Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner watch as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump: Pillars of Family-Driven West Wing

WASHINGTON — One has an office down the hall from the president in the White House; the other just moved into an office a floor up. One recently visited war-torn Iraq as the president’s emissary; the other will soon head to Berlin at the invitation of Germany’s chancellor.

Both have seats at the table at any meeting they choose to attend, join lunches with foreign leaders and enjoy “walk-in privileges” to the Oval Office. And with the marginalization of Stephen K. Bannon, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have emerged as President Trump’s most important advisers, at least for now.

More openly than any president before him, Mr. Trump is running his West Wing like a family business, and as he has soured on Mr. Bannon, his combative chief strategist, he has turned to his daughter and son-in-law. Their ascendance has some conservative supporters fretting about the rising influence of the urbane young New Yorkers, as some moderates and liberals swallow concerns about nepotism in the hope that the couple will temper the temperamental president.

Still, for all the talk of a velvet coup against Mr. Bannon, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have achieved few concrete victories. And several administration officials and people close to the family said the couple’s move against Mr. Bannon was motivated less by interest in shaping any particular policy than by addressing what they view as an embarrassing string of failures that may damage her father personally, as well as the Trump family brand.

“If you think of it as a classic business model, Trump likes to invest in winners because they make more money, and Jared has been pretty consistently winning,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an ally of Mr. Trump’s. “You’re always on a what’s-your-quarterly-report kind of relationship with Trump.”

Neither Mr. Kushner nor Ms. Trump have government experience. Mr. Kushner, 36, managed the real estate empire he inherited from his family and bought The New York Observer as a side project. Ms. Trump, 35, was groomed with her brothers to run the family company before starting a fashion brand that appealed to young, urban female consumers likely to align themselves with her father’s opponents.

But the quarterly report on Mr. Kushner shows that he has been in merger-and-acquisition mode. He has expanded his portfolio into a far-ranging set of issues, including Middle East peace, the opioid epidemic, relations with China and Mexico and reorganizing the federal government from top to bottom. “Everything runs through me,” he told corporate executives during the transition.

Lately, he has pushed to overhaul the criminal justice system, a goal that Mr. Trump embraced as a candidate near the end of the campaign when he tried to siphon black voters away from Hillary Clinton. But Mr. Kushner is running into opposition from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who favors toughening, not relaxing, mandatory minimum sentences.

Some colleagues, including Mr. Bannon and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, regard Mr. Kushner’s breathtaking list of assignments with comic contempt, according to a dozen Trump associates who insisted on anonymity to discuss Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump. After Mr. Kushner’s trip to Iraq, White House aides referred to him as the “secretary of state.”

But they are warier of Ms. Trump, who only recently arrived in the West Wing and until now has been a more sporadic player than her ambitious husband. Initially resistant to a formal role in the administration, Ms. Trump took an office and a government position — albeit, like her husband, without accepting a salary — out of concern over the troubles of her father’s first couple of months in office.

According to associates, she views her role partly as guardian of the family reputation and has fretted during and since the campaign about the long-term damage to the family business’s image that her father’s political career could cause.

When Ms. Trump does intervene, her father listens — although he does not always take her advice. One person close to the family described her influence as a delayed-action fuse: At times the president will mention a point Ms. Trump made, uncredited, days later.

Her brother Eric Trump said she was upset by pictures of victims from the chemical attack in Syria and that may have encouraged their father to retaliate. He defended family members being in the White House, saying relatives are more candid. “The beautiful thing about family is you play on a little bit of a different dynamic and once in a while you can pull them aside and say, ‘No disrespect but you might want to think about this or maybe you crossed the line here,’” he told The Daily Telegraph.

The White House had no comment on Friday. But the supposed backstage liberal counterrevolution that critics fear has yielded modest results. Last week, the president signed legislation allowing states to deny federal funding to women’s health care providers offering abortion services, like Planned Parenthood. Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner were skiing in Canada, just as they were on the slopes in Aspen during the collapse of the health care effort.

“I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard,” Ms. Trump recently told CBS News. “In some cases, it’s through protest and it’s through going on the nightly news and talking about or denouncing every issue on which you disagree with. Other times it is quietly and directly and candidly.

“So where I disagree with my father, he knows it,” she added. “And I express myself with total candor. Where I agree, I fully lean in and support the agenda and — and hope — that I can be an asset to him and — and make a positive impact. But I respect the fact that he always listens. It’s how he was in business. It’s how he is as president.”

Other presidents have relied on family. John Adams appointed John Quincy Adams minister to Prussia. Edith Wilson effectively ran the White House when Woodrow Wilson was stricken. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote reports to Franklin D. Roosevelt from around the country and their daughter Anna Roosevelt was a gatekeeper in his later days.

Dwight D. Eisenhower made his son John Eisenhower a White House aide. Robert F. Kennedy served as his brother’s attorney general and Nancy Reagan as her husband’s quasi-personnel director. George Bush asked George W. Bush to ease out his chief of staff. Hillary Clinton famously ran a health care task force.

“The history is that it is very common for the whole family to become involved in the White House,” said Doug Wead, who researched presidential children for the first President Bush and later wrote a book. “The Trumps are not as good at hiding the family involvement as others, but it is there for almost all of the presidents with adult children.”

Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a historian at the National First Ladies’ Library, said Ms. Trump can play a vital role for her father and praised her for being transparent about taking the assignment rather than operating behind the scenes, predicting that her participation “will prove the single greatest success of the first 100 days of her father’s presidency.”

But Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff, said relatives in the West Wing can confuse the chain of command. “It can be disastrous if they exert their influence at the expense of the chief of staff,” he said.

At the center of the Trump presidency is a paradox: Even allies acknowledge Mr. Trump is impulsive, indifferent to preparation and prone to embracing the last advice offered. He needs a strong hand to guide him, but insists on appearing in firm command, so any aide perceived as pulling strings can face his wrath sooner or later. It was Mr. Trump, not his children, who pushed Mr. Bannon to the margins, motivated less by ideology than by dissatisfaction with recent failures and his perception that his chief strategist was running an off-the-books operation to aggrandize himself at Mr. Trump’s expense.

Mr. Trump remains annoyed by a February cover of Time magazine labeling Mr. Bannon “The Great Manipulator,” telling one visitor this month, “That doesn’t just happen” — a favored Trump expression for anger at subordinates who tend to their interests ahead of his.

At the same time, the president and his family have closely monitored Mr. Bannon’s former website, Breitbart, which they regarded as a weapon in his war against White House rivals. Confronted about the site, Mr. Bannon told the president that it was operating beyond his control and against his wishes.

Ms. Trump has never been close to Mr. Bannon, although she appreciated the ferocity of his work, people close to her said. She puts him in the category of colorful, rough-hewed characters her father collects, with the likes of Roger Stone, a longtime Trump operative.

In recent weeks, she has spoken bluntly about Mr. Bannon’s shortcomings to the president. She was especially incensed by articles she believed were planted by Mr. Bannon’s allies suggesting he, not her father, honed the populist economic message that helped sweep the Midwest. She made that point in the strongest terms to her father, who agreed, according to a family friend.

Mr. Trump would prefer the situation with Mr. Bannon to stabilize, according to people familiar with his thinking, and to keep Mr. Bannon on board, albeit in a more circumscribed role, than see him become a populist critic outside the gates. Mr. Bannon intuitively understands the president’s connection to white working-class voters and his instinct to demolish political norms. And neither Ms. Trump nor her husband have so far plunged into day-to-day government operations or logged the 18-hour days the indefatigable Mr. Bannon routinely works.

They have important allies, though, including two Goldman Sachs veterans, Gary Cohn, the national economics adviser, and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser. Mr. Cohn, a Democrat, has been projected as a future chief of staff, and Ms. Powell, a Republican veteran of the second Bush administration, has served as all-around West Wing fixer.

While Mr. Cohn has been attacked by the right, Ms. Powell is praised by conservatives like Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, and she and Ms. Trump have been working with Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor who remains a favorite of grass-roots Republicans. Perhaps tellingly, Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s policy adviser, has shifted away from Mr. Bannon, his onetime ally. He has worked with Ms. Trump since the campaign on child care and other issues, and colleagues said he endeared himself to her and Mr. Kushner in order to get more freedom to pursue anti-immigration policies that animate him.

The larger shift has generated consternation among Mr. Trump’s supporters. Scott McConnell, a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, mocked the president’s daughter and son-in-law as “bright, conventionally wisdomed yuppie New Yorkers who have never had to formulate or defend a complicated foreign policy position in their lives.”

Writing on the website Vox, he said, “I certainly didn’t vote for the foreign policy preferences of Jared and Ivanka, or a policy driven by whatever images on TV happened to move the president.”

The expectation that Ms. Trump will push her father to the left on social issues has been unhelpful, people close to her said. She shares his economically conservative view and did not enter the White House to be a social issues warrior, they said.

For his part, Mr. Kushner has succeeded in part because he has never tried “to explain what Jared wants,” Mr. Gingrich said. “He is very attuned to listening to Trump and trying to figure out what Trump needs, and what Trump is trying to get done.”

Mr. Kushner has served as the president’s eyes and ears. “Jared is constantly reaching outside the Trump inner circle to get feedback,” said Kathy Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, on whose board he served. “That is really making an impression on people that there’s an opportunity to have input into what’s happening in the White House.”

Mr. Kushner stays calm when others are frayed by Mr. Trump’s explosive temper. During the campaign, when the candidate was incensed by the performance of his aides, he reminded his father-in-law that four people could not be fired — himself and the three Trump siblings.

Still, if Mr. Trump lives by any management dictum, it may be this: The only indispensable employee looks back from his mirror.

‘Spicey finally made a mistake’ and Fallon returns to SNL as Jared Kushner in cold open

This weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” was packed with familiar characters: Alec Baldwin was back as President Donald Trump, the Grim Reaper played Stephen K. Bannon, Beck Bennett was Vice President Mike Pence, and Melissa McCarthy returned as Sean Spicer – unhinged and angry as always.

But there was also a new character: guest host Jimmy Fallon, as the dialogue-free, bulletproof vest-wearing Jared Kushner.

The show’s cold open began with Baldwin’s Trump sitting in the Oval Office, reflecting on his first 100 days as president. Bennett’s Pence, a folder in hand, stands next to Trump.

“I’ve been president almost 100 days and I’ve already accomplished so much,” Trump said, telling Pence to read him a list of his accomplishments.

Pence opens the folder and reads, “Nominated Neil Gorsuch.” He closes the folder.

Trump then goes on to reminisce about the “great memories” he’s had inside the office. What follows is a lampooning of the president’s weekly visits to what’s been dubbed his “Winter White House.” As he mentions one memory, Pence quickly reminds him where it actually happened.

Trump: “I met with the Chinese president.”

Pence: “That was at Mar-a-Lago, sir.”

Trump: “This is where I ordered the Syrian strike.”

Pence: “That was also at Mar-a-Lago, sir.”

Trump: “This is where I showed classified information to the Japanese prime minister.”

Pence: “That was in front of a bunch of waiters at Mar-a-Lago, sir.”

Baldwin’s Trump later drifted into the topic of North Korea, and Pence urged him to focus on something more pressing at home: the feud between Bannon and Kushner, his two advisers.

The Grim Reaper enters as Bannon.

And then Fallon, dressed as Kushner when he visited Iraq: shades, suit jacket, khaki pants and a military vest.

The first few minutes of the cold open were a build up for what was next: Elimination night, “The Apprentice” style.

As Trump sends Pence out of the room, Bannon and Kushner stand in front of him, waiting for the president to announce who gets to remain as his adviser. The loser has to immediately leave the Oval Office and “join Kellyanne Conway in the basement,” Trump said.

“Jared, you take the most beautiful photos. Steve, you take the worst photos I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not joking,” Trump said, as ominous music plays in the background. “Jared, I’ve sent you all around the world to represent me, but no one’s ever heard you speak.”

After much anticipation, Trump, of course, picks Kushner, a choice that mocked the actual diminishing of Bannon’s role in the White House. The Grim Reaper is then dragged out the door by another Grim Reaper.

“Jared, you’re such as inspiration. You showed everybody that if you were born rich and married my daughter, you can do anything you want … Just fix everything, OK?” Trump told the still-silent Kushner before retreating to a miniature version of his desk to play with a toy.

This week’s cold open didn’t include what was perhaps one of the most memorable White House gaffes last week, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Adolf Hitler didn’t “sink to using chemical weapons,” even though he had gassed millions of Jews.

But McCarthy reprised her ever-seething version of Spicer later in the show.

Standing behind a lectern and wearing an Easter Bunny costume, McCarthy’s Spicer went straight to the point.

“Yes, you all got your wish this week, didn’t you, huh? Spicey finally made a mistake,” Spicer said. “As you all know, President Trump recently bombed Syria while eating the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake America has ever laid eyes on. That’s a fact!”

Spicer talked about the Hitler gaffe and Bashar al-Assad, massively butchering the Syrian president’s name. (The real-life Spicer had mispronounced Assad’s name during a White House briefing last week). He brought up the “Holocaust centers,” ridiculing the real Spicer’s use of the term.

“I know they’re not really called Holocaust centers. Duh! I know that. I’m aware,” Spicer said. “I clearly meant to say concentration – clubs.”

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