By now, Jared Kushner's White House résumé is quite extensive. His father-in-law, Donald Trump, tasked him with brokering peace between Israel and Palestine, completing an environmentally destructive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reforming the criminal justice system, and building an "Office of American Innovation," dedicated to making the government run like a business.
Despite his failing to follow through on any of these tasks, Trump also put Kushner in charge of the U.S. coronavirus response, complete with his own "shadow" task force made up of equally unqualified friends, which caused confusion about competing power structures.
Speaking to TIME for a January profile of Kushner, Brad Parscale, the Kushner-appointed manager for Trump's campaign, said, "Nobody has more influence in the White House than Jared. Nobody has more influence outside the White House than Jared. He’s No. 2 after Trump."
Parscale may actually have been underselling Kushner's influence there. In a new story for Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman details how Kushner has filled the vacuum left by Donald Trump's general lack of interest in governing:
"Jared is running everything. He’s the de facto president of the United States," a former White House official told me. The previous chief of staff John Kelly, who’d marginalized Kushner, was long gone, and Mick Mulvaney, a virtual lame duck by that point, let Kushner run free. "Jared treats Mick like the help," a prominent Republican said.
Current and former White House officials described to Vanity Fair a Kushner who is as vindictive and myopic as Trump himself. After the Senate acquitted Trump of impeachment charges without calling a single witness, Kushner reportedly pushed for a sweeping purge of officials who weren't deemed loyal enough during the hearings. A New York business executive recounted a fall 2019 meeting with Kushner, saying, "I told Jared that if Trump won a second term, he wouldn’t have to worry about running again and you can really help people. Jared just looked at me and said, 'I don’t care about any of that.’ ”
Also like Trump, when it comes to fighting the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner appears more concerned with the stock market than with public health. One Republican briefed on the administration's coronavirus response told Vanity Fair that, as early as mid-January, advisers were sounding alarms, but "Jared kept saying the stock market would go down, and Trump wouldn’t get reelected." Another source said that on March 11, as the World Health Organization declared the outbreak officially a pandemic, Kushner still pushed Trump not to declare a national emergency, freeing vital funds and resources for states, because "it would tank the markets." The markets tanked soon after, and Trump was forced to declare a national emergency.
All of this—the bad calls, lack of interest in expertise, and "arrogance," as one source put it—is in line with Kushner's track record from well before he ever entered politics. But what else to expect from a man who got into Harvard after his father donated $2.5 million, even though his grades and SAT scores were middling. In 2007, after taking over his family's real estate empire when his father went to jail, Kushner spearheaded the purchase of 666 Park Avenue, a skyscraper of luxury apartments, for the record-breaking cost of $1.8 billion at the top of the real estate market. When it failed to turn a profit, the debt nearly destroyed the family business, and Kushner couldn't unload the thing until after he nabbed a job in the White House. When he acquired The New York Observer, according to former editor Elizabeth Spiers, he was obsessed with "cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world" that didn't translate to other industries. Kushner gutted the once-venerated paper, believing that laying off enough staff would increase the profit margins from advertising but apparently not understanding that fewer articles meant fewer ads.
As of Wednesday morning, the U.S. officially has more than one million confirmed cases of coronavirus and nearly 60,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins (although that bleak total may be an undercount, by as many as 9,000 deaths by CDC estimates). But that grim reality hasn't deterred Kushner from trying to juice the Dow Jones with sunny spin—even though 73 percent of Americans believe there will be a second wave of coronavirus cases and that social distancing should continue, meaning the vast majority of Americans are unlikely to risk lives to "reopen" the economy. In a Wednesday appearance on Fox & Friends, he told the hosts, "We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this...this is a great success story."
Echoing his father-in-law, who said the pandemic would "miraculously go away" by April due to the warmer weather, Kushner added, "I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again."
Originally Appeared on GQ