Jared Kushner Talks about 'Playing with Live Ammo' after Trump Was Elected; in a Wide-Ranging Interview, the President's Senior Adviser (and Son-in-Law) Discussed His Work on Criminal Justice Reform, the COVID-19 Crisis and Why African Americans Should Vote for Trump

By Powell, Bill | Newsweek, August 7, 2020 | Go to article overview

Jared Kushner Talks about 'Playing with Live Ammo' after Trump Was Elected; in a Wide-Ranging Interview, the President's Senior Adviser (and Son-in-Law) Discussed His Work on Criminal Justice Reform, the COVID-19 Crisis and Why African Americans Should Vote for Trump


Powell, Bill, Newsweek


Byline: Bill Powell

Jared Kushner, the senior adviser (and son-in-law) of President Trump, spoke to Newsweek's Bill Powell at length in mid-June. He talked frankly about which issues he's been involved in (and why), how he operated in the COVID-19 crisis, his Mideast peace plan, and why Black voters should support Donald Trump. These excerpts have been edited for length.

What he thought his role would be in January 2017:

Kushner: That feels like a lifetime ago. I was in a different place in my life then. When we got to the White House at first I was helping [the president] find his way; there were so many people with so many agendas coming at him, it was important to make sure people weren't end-running him, because we were playing with live ammo now. We had to be his eyes and ears to help good people flourish and be a check on people who were playing games. I always had his back.

I think I was good at spotting trends, making decisions and managing organizations. We were doing a lot of learning about how to accomplish his core objectives: get wages rising, rebalance some of the [trade] deals to create long term growth, basically making sure that his big visions had policies put in place below. Every day there are a million crises, you have to figure out how to keep moving forward. In terms of pursuing things that I had interest in, if I identify an objective I go through the process and get signoff to run with it. But look, the fact is that I spend most of my time on things the president wants done. I'm a utility player.

The more I was out campaigning with him the more it became clear that he was representing people who needed a voice. It became clear that the intelligentsia feels one way but the people in the country feel differently. I saw what he was fighting for.

His work on the COVID-19 crisis:

The biggest issue was ventilators and testing. I worked with commercial providers. You needed a lot of components to come together, supply chains needed to be dusted off, set approvals for different types of tests and stay in touch with the companies that can create them. We were able to get a lot of that loosened up. Cut through the bureaucracy and then power through. Get testing unleashed.

On ventilators, the situation varied considerably state by state. We identified what resources were in the private sector and where, and then basically started calling the states asking how many ventilators do you have, what's your utilization rate? We forced discipline on the process.

At the time we were looking at the numbers growing and thinking, holy shit, we may not be able to make 130,000 [ventilators] by May 1. If we don't flatten the curve we might be like Italy, with people dying on gurneys.

I was criticized for saying 'that's not your stockpile,' but the idea was, we are working through all these situations, figuring out the best way to get ventilators to where they were needed. We were not sure we were going to make it, but we did.

On the masks, we had brought in a small group of private equity guys who could sift through the thousands of incoming leads. There was a lot of hoarding going on. We tried to find out how much each state was actually using, in as close to real time as possible. Using data and moving fast--not something the government is always good at. I said, I'll take the heat if there are mistakes.

Operation Warp Speed will hyper-accelerate a bunch of vaccines; we've made progress on therapeutics and testing. We need to be vigilant about screening and testing and monitoring new cases. Overall we need to do a better job of protecting the most vulnerable. People who are older should shelter. People with comorbidities should shelter. But there appears to be little risk for people who are under 45 and who are healthy. We need to figure out a way to continue to open the country safely. Losing one person is too many, so the goal is to prevent as much death as possible. …

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Jared Kushner Talks about 'Playing with Live Ammo' after Trump Was Elected; in a Wide-Ranging Interview, the President's Senior Adviser (and Son-in-Law) Discussed His Work on Criminal Justice Reform, the COVID-19 Crisis and Why African Americans Should Vote for Trump
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