It took just 72 hours for Donald J. Trump to morph into George W. Bush, and for Jared and Ivanka Kushner to become president of the United States.
We all knew that Trump is the ultimate kleptocrat, who views the presidency of the United States as an extension of the family business. But Jared and Ivanka’s takeover has been far swifter and more thorough than most people anticipated. After 77 days of constant ridicule, scandal, protests, legal setbacks and legislative failure by Team Trump produced the worst poll numbers in the history of modern polling for a new president, he has, by all accounts, turned to the family to save his skin.
Here’s the timeline:
The takeover goes public on March 29 when Ivanka becomes a federal employee, complete with a security clearance and the vague title “assistant to the president,” plus an office upstairs from that of her husband. By then, Jared’s portfolio has grown to include everything from remaking American business and the VA to handling U.S. relations with Mexico and China to forging peace in the Middle East.
On April 2nd, Jared flies to Iraq at the invitation of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a tour that put him ahead of the nominal secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has yet to touch down in Baghdad.
Tillerson instead heads to Turkey, where on March 30, he and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in New York announce separately that it’s up to Syrians to decide their dictator’s fate. Both are heavily criticized for those statements, particularly by the neoconservative war wing of the Republican Party.
On April 4, Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces are accused of dropping chemical weapons on his citizens, resulting in ghastly images of dead and dying children. Some observers blame the permissive statements from the Trump administration for giving the Russian-backed Assad the green light to kill still more people in a bloody war for dictatorial survival that has cost the lives of a half million Syrians since 2013.
Reports say the military wing of Trumpworld immediately present the president with intel proving Assad ordered the attack, along with options for retaliation. Onetime top Trump ear whisperer Steve Bannon reportedly opposes retaliatory strikes, urging Trump to stay focused on his “America first” campaign pledges, like deporting Mexicans, muscling companies to delay outsourcing jobs, persecuting Muslim travelers and “building the wall.”
By the next day, April 5, Bannon is kicked off the National Security Council’s “principals committee” and the Director of National Intelligence and head of the Joint Chiefs are restored to the positions they held before Bannon’s executive order power play. Bannon’s ouster was orchestrated by General H.R. McMaster, who a Republican source says threatened to quit if the former Breitbart editor stayed on, as reports say Bannon did too. The source said Trump choosing McMaster over Bannon was backed by Kushner and Ivanka, who have reportedly come to believe Bannon and his alt-right coven are ruining pop’s presidency.
The next morning, April 6, Trump lackey Devin Nunes announces he is stepping down as leader of the House Intelligence Committee investigation of Russiagate to let a different Trump lackey take over. The move comes after several Democratic-leaning groups file ethics complaints against him for allegedly disclosing classified information in the obsequious service of Trump’s wiretapping conspiracy theories.
Trump holds a press conference that afternoon in which he appears to reverse his position 180 degrees on Syria and Assad; going from the guy who could look Syrian children in the face and tell them they can’t come to America as refugees, to the savior of “the beautiful babies.”
That night, after dinner at Mar-a-Lago with the Chinese delegation, Trump orders missile strikes against Syrian targets in retaliation for the gassings. He of course gives Russia a heads up, though apparently not the State Department of the NSC staff, the latter of which is not exactly trustworthy these days.
The strike has the welcome effect of taking the media’s focus off Russiagate, and replacing it with predictable parades of TV generals talking tactics, along with pundit encomiums to the wartime president. For those who have been uncomfortable discussing things like creeping authoritarianism and kakistocracy, normalcy seems within blessed reach at last.
Trump closes the evening by asking God to bless the entire world and not just America.
A second GOP source concurs that the shift has Kushner and Ivanka’s fingerprints all over it, adding that there could be trouble with the base if it looks like conservatives are being squeezed out.
By all reports, McMaster is cleaning house, including trying to evict political hacks loyal to Bannon and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn—people like K.T. McFarland and White House plumber Ezra Cohen-Watnick—to undo what had become an attempt to use the NSC to drum up support for Trump’s Obama conspiracy theories and to provide cover on Trumpgate. “They’re trying to use the NSC to cover up the Russiagate stuff and McMaster’s not having it,” the first source said. And McMaster, a close ally of Trump’s other general, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, is doing so with Kushner and Ivanka’s full support. The source says that Republican donors and GOPers outside of Trumpworld have made it clear that if McMaster and Mattis go, Trump is on his own.
“The Democrats,” as Kushner, Ivanka and Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn (along with Cohn ally, deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and public liaison communications rep Omarosa Manigault) are derisively called by the Bannonites, also appear to be behind the coming ouster of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who is taking the blame for the failure of Trumpcare, and whose deputy Katie Walsh was already banished to an outside group founded by Trump funder Rebekah Mercer, who has since pulled her money, and who is reportedly urging her other fundee Bannon to hang on.
The sidelining of the Bannonites is in effect the sidelining of Mercer, whose other ally inside Trumpworld is Kellyanne Conway, whose profile and star have also dimmed considerably inside the West Wing.
“The White House is starting to understand that this situation is not sustainable,” the first GOP source told me. “The power centers are shifting.”
Ironically, those centers appear to be shifting into the hands of the last people Trump’s angry Republican base expected to empower: neoconservative, war hawk Republicans on Capitol Hill and a couple of young, rich, politically inexperienced New York Democrats who also happen to be family.