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Abramson writes: "With special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation moving ever closer to President Trump himself, it looks like someone inside the family is about to be sacrificed."

Donald Trump. (photo: AP)
Donald Trump. (photo: AP)


Game of Trumps Is About to Get Really Bloody

By Jill Abramson, Guardian UK

05 December 17


The investigation is taking a new twist, as Donald Trump appears to be distancing himself from his son-in-law

ame of Trumps is about to get really bloody. With special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moving ever closer to President Trump himself, it looks like someone inside the family is about to be sacrificed.

With Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleading guilty last week to the charge of lying to the FBI, much more about the Russia scandal is now coming into focus. The Flynn flip was by far the most dramatic event so far in the investigation into alleged Russian interference in 2016’s US presidential race. Flynn’s evidence can only lead up the chain of power towards Trump.

Consider this chronology. On 23 November it was widely reported that Flynn had informed the Trump legal team that he could no longer discuss the case with them. The end of cooperation with Trump surely signalled the beginning of cooperation with Mueller. Two days later the New York Times and Washington Post carried nearly identical stories about Jared Kushner’s waning influence.

The Times story had three bylines, including Maggie Haberman, the president’s go-to reporter. It concluded: “Mr Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who had been in seemingly every meeting and every photograph, has lately disappeared from public view and, according to some colleagues, taken on a more limited role behind the scenes.”

Ashley Parker, who was a frontline reporter on the Trump campaign for the Times and now covers the White House for the Post, parroted virtually the same line in a story headlined “The shrinking profile of Jared Kushner”.

Someone high up in the White House seemed anxious for the word to spread. The Times story was attributed, in part, to three “advisers to the president”. Parker’s included an earlier interview with Kushner and came “from interviews with Kushner himself, as well as 12 senior administration officials, aides, outside advisers and confidants, some speaking on condition of anonymity to offer a more candid assessment”.

Both stories raised the question of how long Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, the president’s daughter, would remain in Washington.

The Flynn plea deal makes clear that he was not acting as a lone ranger in his communications with Russian officials, including the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Documents show that Flynn was told to call the Russians and other key international officials to discuss the sanctions President Obama was placing on Russia for interfering in the US election. Within minutes of the plea deal being announced, several news organisations reported that Kushner was the one directing Flynn’s communications, which Flynn then lied about to the FBI.

In the statement Flynn made about his guilty plea, he noted that he made the decision to cooperate because it was in the best interests of his family. No doubt this is a reference to his own son, Michael Flynn Jr, who worked for his father during the transition.

Until now, Kushner has survived the fights that are common inside Trump’s circle. During the campaign he dictated changes in the campaign leadership. In the White House, he won a bloody duel with Steve Bannon, whose hard-right, nationalist agenda was set back as a result. But Kushner’s time may be up.

The clues that Kushner has been pulling the strings on Russia are everywhere. Before the Trumps were even in the White House, he tried to set up a backchannel to communicate with the Russians. He then pushed Flynn hard to try to turn Russia around on an anti-Israel vote by the UN security council. Then there were the secret reassurances to the Russians that the Obama sanctions were nothing to worry about once Trump took office. Kushner was behind those machinations, too.

What he told the president about firing former FBI director James Comey will be critical in assessing whether Kushner is also vulnerable to obstruction of justice charges. Those details are yet to leak. Other clues include that fishy meeting during the campaign to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer close to Putin. Kushner was there, too. And, during the transition, his meeting with a sanctioned Russian bank. There was also the failure to include some of these contacts on his initial federal disclosure forms.

Declining power. Flynn turning state’s witness. It doesn’t look good for Kushner. When President Trump turned over his business empire to his two sons, he said that if they did a bad job he would not hesitate to say: “You’re fired.” The same is surely true for his son-in-law. But what Kushner fears more is Mueller saying: “You’re charged.” How he might deal with this, and what this might mean for President Trump, no one yet knows.


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