It is clear there are discrete divisions in Trump’s cabinet with regards to who is able to influence the president. The positions with the most direct influence may be most clearly described as appointees without the need for congressional approval. These appointees have been placed in an inner circle, which allows them greater access to Trump’s ear.
One of the most important people in the aforementioned circle is Jared Kushner, the Senior Advisor to the President and husband of Ivanka Trump. One of the most interesting aspects of Kushner is his very Trump-esque past: a New York real estate mogul with inherited wealth and no experience in government. So it is not surprising that Trump, a man who holds himself and his rise so highly, values someone with a similar path to his own. In addition to this fact there is also the question of Kushner’s integrity; he and Trump were not only largely criticised for compromising nepotism statutes via his appointment, but it also has been argued that his admittance to his alma mater, Harvard, was only justified by a large gift given by his father. Clearly the man is no rags to riches story, rather he has had a terribly easy ascent to his now lofty position with almost complete access to the president, or how he may call him, Dad.
Kushner’s intentions to become involved with the foreign policy side of the administration revealed themselves early on. A few weeks ago when it was revealed that he had held meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, a Russian banker with ties to Putin, he and others present claimed it was an effort by Kushner to create back channels and contacts with Russia as a transition official. Though these claims do conflict with what Kushner’s Russian counterparts had to say; the bank claimed it was part of a ‘roadshow of business meetings’ and in part discussed their ‘new strategy.’ These dissenting views were described by a White House source as erroneous, and that after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson entered office Kushner’s role as liaison promptly ended. Kushner’s actions have certainly revealed some intent or desire to enter into the foreign policy sphere, utilising the previously unprecedented access he has to his father in law and the influence it entails. In addition, he has been assigned with many tasks that would normally be reserved for the Secretary of State. One such example is his visit to Iraq as the first senior official from Trump’s Cabinet. Also, Kushner seems to have been working at foreign policy from inside the White House, with his requests largely being the reason for Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council. This synopsis of Kushner’s arrival to his current standing brings us to the event in question, it has been openly described (by both Eric Trump and even touched upon by Sean Spicer) that Ivanka, and Kushner in tow, were crucial in the decision to bomb Syria by Trump.
It has been reported that Kushner was able to put forth his argument to Trump that Assad needed to be punished for his actions, and this was coupled with the previously stated emotional sentiments, in regards to the women and children being slain, that Ivanka brought forth from the perspective of a mother. It may seem tenuous that Kushner simply arguing for Assad’s punishment be enough to label him a key player in puppeteering Trump’s foreign policy, but it may be useful look back at a quote from a ball on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. Trump told his son-in-law, ‘If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can. OK?’
Kushner has certainly been continuing to fight for more and more influence in regards to Trump’s foreign policy and has pushed Bannon far out of the inner circle. For it is not as if Kushner is creating more space for influence, but has recently gained it from pushing Bannon further away, which has resulted in Breitbart (Bannon’s brain child) threatening backlash. The former Democratic Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, brought up the obvious statement in regards to this battle on the inside that has been seemingly overlooked, ‘Jared Kushner from the little I know about him is a far better candidate… A 36-year-old, rather than a white supremacist who hates Jews.’ Though this does not belittle the large amount of influence Kushner has in the White House, it does point to the fact that it is certainly not the worst it could be, and maybe that is what we should be praying for in the Trump presidency.