It was one of Donald Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories — that Saudi Arabia was behind 9/11, and the U.S. government is covering it up: “You will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center because they have papers in there that are very secret, you may find it’s the Saudis, OK?” he thundered at a primary-season rally in Blufftown, South Carolina.
But when the Republican platform committee set about putting Trump’s words into policy, calling for the declassification of 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission’s report relating to Saudi Arabia, the plank was quietly shelved. The identity of the person whose behind-the-scenes intervention helped scuttle the deal was, perhaps, a surprise: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.
Kushner is the campaign’s unofficial ambassador to Jewish donors who fretted that the release of damaging information about Saudi Arabia could alter the balance of power in the Mideast. But the intervention — by one of Trump’s family members seeking to rein in the candidate’s more destabilizing positions — has become increasingly common.
The young New York City real estate and media mogul, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, has become the most powerful operative atop the campaign in the month since the candidate’s children banded together and forced the ouster of Corey Lewandowski and his “Let Trump be Trump” approach.
Now, Kushner is making key hires, fine-tuning and sharpening Trump’s speeches and serving as the central emissary behind the scenes, meeting privately last month with House Speaker Paul Ryan, having direct conversations with billionaire Sheldon Adelson and asserting influence on everything from Trump’s search for a running mate — he pushed hard for Newt Gingrich, largely at Adelson’s behest — to his tweets.
Since Lewandowski’s dismissal, executed by three Kushner associates, including Trump’s son Donald Jr., no one has officially been named the new campaign manager. And while Kushner is working alongside Paul Manafort, a seasoned political operative three decades his senior who has been preoccupied with convention plans, there is a sense that the baby-faced billionaire is now effectively at the helm of a presidential campaign that is more of a family business than any in recent history.
“In my 30 years in the business, I’ve never seen such a positive impact from such a large family on such a complex campaign,” said Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump associate who oversaw Trump’s New York primary campaign before getting ousted.