WASHINGTON ― Having run through his first choices for his chief of staff vacancy without any luck, President Donald Trump is considering his own son-in-law for the job.
Jared Kushner, the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and already an official White House adviser, met with Trump Wednesday about the job, a top Republican close to the White House told HuffPost. He and two others close to Trump or the White House who confirmed Kushner’s interest in the position did so on condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s staffing considerations freely.
Kushner has been pushing his own candidacy with Trump, citing his work on a criminal justice reform package and a claimed ability to work with Democrats, one person said. “I don’t know why he thinks that, when the Democrats are mainly going to be coming after Trump,” the source said.
The White House did not respond to HuffPost’s queries about Kushner’s prospects for the job.
Trump told reporters Thursday that he is down to five finalists. “We are interviewing people now for chief of staff,” he said at a photo opportunity with newly elected governors who were visiting the White House.
Trump announced on Saturday that current chief of staff John Kelly would leave “toward the end of the year.” Nick Ayers, the current chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was thought to be the likely favorite to succeed Kelly. But Ayers announced on Twitter on Sunday that he was withdrawing from consideration.
“Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House. I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause,” he wrote.
One source said Ayers, the father of young triplets, wanted to take the job on a short-term basis to see whether he could manage it, but then grew less interested the more time he spent with Trump.
The president ― who came into office after starring in a reality television show and running a closely held family business using wealth largely inherited from his father ― is known for temper tantrums and making demands that are illegal or impossible to carry out.
“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,’” former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a fundraising event for the MD Anderson Cancer Center last week.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, was expected to bring order and discipline to the West Wing when he took the job in mid-2017. Despite this, the unscripted chaos that marked Trump’s first six months under his initial chief of staff, Reince Priebus, largely continued unchanged.
It is unclear who the five finalists Trump claimed he was looking at are. Former deputy campaign manager David Bossie is scheduled to have lunch with Trump Friday at the White House. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is also thought to be under consideration, while Trump is soliciting names from the legal community in New York City, where he lived his entire life before winning the presidency in 2016.
After Ayers turned the job down, Trump tried to recruit Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow and North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, all of whom declined, one source said.
Kushner and his wife Ivanka ― known derisively by White House critics as “Javanka” ― face considerable opposition from both inside and outside the West Wing because of concerns about nepotism as well as worries about Kushner’s judgment. He has had to repeatedly file addendums to his financial disclosure forms since joining the White House. More recently, he has become a strong advocate for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman ― who U.S. intelligence agencies believe ordered the murder of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi after luring him to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.