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Five noteworthy nuggets from Jared Kushner’s new book

Jared Kushner’s “Breaking History” is the latest memoir from a Trump administration official, this one from the former president’s son-in-law who also served as senior adviser in the White House and on his 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

But while Kushner touches on his time getting to know Trump before he ran for president and covers his full campaign and four years in the White House, the book offers scant critical assessments of his father-in-law.

Instead, Kushner focuses largely on his own efforts to broker peace agreements in the Middle East, his attempts to aid the pandemic response and internal squabbles in which he invariably comes out on top.

Here are six notable takeaways from the book, which will be released Tuesday. An advanced copy was obtained by The Hill.  

Kushner claims violence on Jan. 6 was unexpected

Kushner distances himself from the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to try to stop Congress’s Electoral College vote count of the 2020 election results sealing Trump’s defeat.

Kushner wrote that he was flying back to Washington, D.C., from Saudi Arabia when he got a call from attorney Eric Herschmann saying rioters had broken into the Capitol. But Kushner’s assessment of the riot, which led to multiple deaths and scores of injuries, is that the White House could not have known there would be violence that day.

“The violent storming of the Capitol was wrong and unlawful. It did not represent the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters, or the tens of millions of Trump voters, who were good, decent and law-abiding citizens,” Kushner wrote.

“What is clear to me is that no one at the White House expected violence that day. I’m confident that if my colleagues or the president had anticipated violence, they would have prevented it from happening,” he continued. 

“After more than six hundred peaceful Trump rallies, these rioters gave Trump’s critics the fodder they had wanted for more than five years. It allowed them to say that Trump’s supporters were crazed and violent thugs. The claim was as false as the narrative that the violent Antifa rioters who desecrated American cities that summer were representative of the millions of peaceful demonstrators who had marched for equality under the law.”

Kushner’s assessment that nobody in the White House expected there to be violence on Jan. 6 stands in stark contrast with the findings of the House committee investigating the attack.

Former Trump administration official Cassidy Hutchinson testified that then-chief of staff Mark Meadows predicted things “could get bad” and she said Trump was aware some in the crowd at his speech that day were armed.

Kushner himself testified to the committee that he was in the shower when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called him asking for help that day, something he echoes in the book.

Kushner also glossed over how Trump and his allies spread falsehoods about the election, writing that he was out with COVID-19 when Rudy Giuliani was put in charge of investigating those claims.

Kushner says he sealed door connecting his office and Bannon’s

Kushner reveals in the book that he had the door connecting his office with former White House strategist Stephen Bannon’s sealed shut and accused the former Breitbart executive of leaking unsavory stories about the former president’s son-in-law to the media.

The book highlights a number of rivalries Kushner had with other administration officials, most notably former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former chief of staff John Kelly, as well as Bannon.

Bannon in particular draws much of Kushner’s ire in the early parts of the book, with the former president’s son-in-law frequently accusing Bannon of leaking to the press to make Kushner and others look bad. Kushner and Bannon had connecting offices in the West Wing, something that didn’t last for long.

Kushner wrote that Bannon was left out of the loop in 2017 when Trump decided to fire then-FBI Director James Comey, a move that ultimately triggered the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Soon after, in what I suspected was a Bannon leak, the press reported that I advised the president to make the decision, which was false,” Kushner wrote.

“One weekend while the president and the usual entourage of senior staff were in Mar-a-Lago, I had the White House maintenance team seal off the internal doorway between my office and Bannon’s,” Kushner added.

Later in the book, Kushner recalls his feelings about Trump giving Bannon a pardon, something he said he had no problem with.

“Bannon single-handedly caused more problems for me than anyone else in my time in Washington,” Kushner wrote. “He probably leaked and lied about me more than everyone else combined. He played dirty and dragged me into the mud of the Russia investigation. But now that he was in trouble, I felt like helping him was the right thing to do.”

Trump on Trillion Trees initiative: ‘What is this … bullshit?’

Trump, who has for years cast doubt on the effects of climate change despite labeling himself an “environmentalist,” initially scoffed at the idea of pledging to join the Trillion Trees Initiative, under which nations pledge to plant a combined 1 trillion trees to combat carbon pollution.

“What is this trillion trees bullshit?” Trump asked while reviewing his speech for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kushner wrote.

“Are you trying to push more liberal shit on me?” Trump asked.

“No, it’s a smart idea,” Kushner responded, according to the book. “It costs zero dollars right now and conservatives like Kevin McCarthy love it. You always say you agree with the environmentalists in wanting clean air and clean water. The quality of both has actually improved under your presidency, but you never get any credit for it.”

“‘Fine. I’ll leave it in,’ the president huffed,” Kushner wrote.

Trump routinely claimed he was an environmentalist who wanted clean air and clean water, though his administration repeatedly loosened environmental restrictions. He also publicly conflated weather with climate change, and he skipped a key Group of Seven (G-7) summit focused on climate.

Trump holding up Bible at church was ‘improvised’

When Trump and a coterie of aides walked across the street from the White House to St. John’s Church in Lafayette Park, the plan was for the president to go inside the building, Kushner wrote.

But it was boarded up after a minor fire caused damage during demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd, leading Trump to hold up a Bible outside the building in a now infamous photo-op.

“[W]hen Trump walked through the empty Lafayette Square, which the US Park Police had cleared, he was surprised to find the church boarded up,” Kushner wrote. “He had planned to go inside and say a prayer, so he improvised by holding up his Bible in front of the church. 

“The press alleged that the president had emptied the square expressly for this visit. But that was not the case—the Park Police had cleared it as part of a preexisting plan to create a safer perimeter around the White House,” Kushner wrote.

Trump’s photo-op was widely panned after he stood silently holding a Bible, surrounded by other aides. The photo-op came moments after hundreds of demonstrators near the White House were cleared from the space following days of protests over Floyd’s killing.

Book paints flattering picture of Saudi crown prince

Kushner was known throughout his time in the White House to have a friendly relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Kushner’s book only reinforces that idea.

The crown prince, referred to throughout the book by his initials, MBS, is a prominent player throughout Kushner’s many meetings with Middle East leaders in hopes of a breakthrough on a peace agreement.

Much of Kushner’s focus when writing about MBS is on the crown prince’s supposed desire to modernize the kingdom and loosen restrictive laws toward women in particular, with little mention of Saudi Arabia’s glaring human rights issues.

Kushner does mention the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who wrote critically of the Saudi government in The Washington Post. The crown prince “took responsibility for the fact that it happened on his watch, though he said he was not personally involved,” Kushner wrote.

U.S. intelligence officials have since concluded that the crown prince directed the killing of Khashoggi.

Later, Kushner weighs Khashoggi’s murder against the crown prince’s proposed reforms to Saudi society.

“While this situation was terrible, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the reforms that MBS was implementing were having a positive impact on millions of people in the kingdom—especially women,” Kushner wrote, noting under his rule, the crown prince allowed women the freedom to travel, participate in the economy and own property. 

Source: The Hill

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