Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about recent staff departures from the White House and the influence of President Trump’s family members, particularly daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Marlow proposed that President Trump’s habit of hiring family members for key positions has created turbulence, especially given reports that “Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have special protection inside the White House, and if you’re hitched to them, you’re untouchable.”
“This is the problem when you hire family members,” Schweizer agreed. “You hire somebody from your family, you’re in a powerful political position. It’s great to say in theory, ‘Oh, I’m going to treat them the same as everyone else,’ but as a fact of the matter, you’re not going to.”
“I think particularly in the case of the Trumps and the extended family, meaning Jared, you have individuals who have massive holdings in real estate and in private equity that have the potential to do a lot of business with the government, or are doing a lot of business with the government,” he pointed out.
“I think it goes to this kind of inherent problem that when you mix family and politics, and particularly government power, you have got to make sure there are very strict lines. It’s really incumbent, frankly Alex, on the kids or the people that are not the principle politician to make sure that they don’t stray far. Because look, the President of the United States or a U.S. senator, they need to be focused on doing their job, not on herding their kids and making sure their kids are following the ethical rules,” Schweizer contended.
“Really you’re hoping and assuming that the kids, in this case, are going to stay on the straight and narrow,” he said.
Marlow said Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump appear to have amassed an “unprecedented amount of power” inside the White House despite lacking any particular policy expertise, while “the MAGA crowd is being eliminated one by one.”
Schweizer said the only part of that analysis he could take issue with was Marlow’s contention that Kushner and Ivanka Trump are “very smart people.”
“I think they are, but I don’t think it’s very reflective of one’s intelligence if you come in as a guy in his mid-30s who has no background in diplomacy, and you suddenly in a sense make yourself in charge of Middle East diplomacy,” he said. “That does not speak to me of smarts or wisdom. That speaks to me of hubris.”
“This is a problem in Washington that you have. I think it applies in this case and others. It’s, you know, ‘I did some good real estate deals in the past, or I did great in college, whatever the case may be, and so now I’m going to solve Middle East peace.’ Somebody who’s truly smart, and who is wise, is going to step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have the history, I don’t have the relationships, I don’t have the strategic understanding to know how to assess this,’” said Schweizer.
“So I think this is, again, a huge problem that goes back to family relationships. Who wants to say no to your kids? Who wants to tell your kids, ‘no, you’re not smart enough to do that, I’m not going to let you do it?’ And these are the sorts of problems that arise,” he cautioned.
“As you continue to have these divisions in the Trump White House – where you’ve had Steve Bannon resigned and left, you’ve got Seb Gorka who has resigned and left, you’re probably going to have others – the question is, how does that vacuum get filled? Does the vacuum of people leaving, does it get filled by simply family members co-opting that power and plugging more of their own people in?” he asked.
“Or do you have sort of a ‘team of rivals,’ to use the term that was applied to Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, where you have several themes and ideas? Because any president needs to hear from people that have some different opinions on things,” Schweizer said.
“Reagan had the famous feud between George Schultz, the Secretary of State, and Caspar Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense,” he recalled. “That was good and healthy because then the president was getting two slightly different variations on how to deal with an issue. Every president needs that, including this one.”
“Think about it this way: if Jared Kushner were not the son-in-law if Ivanka Trump were not the daughter, would Donald Trump have hired them for the positions he hired them for? I think everybody would admit that the answer is no,” he asserted. “It’s all about family ties.”
Schweizer thought Kushner should be “in a position of higher scrutiny” than President Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., because they did not take government positions.
“Certainly they’re going to have informal interaction with their dad. They see something happening in the world and they may call up their dad and give their opinion, which happens with every president – friends, family members, whatever,” he noted.
“Jared Kushner is in a different category, though,” Schweizer continued. “He has extensive holdings in real estate. He has extensive holdings in private equity. Some of those are entities that are doing business with the government. He has business ties with people who would be very much interested in getting the contracts to build the wall, for example. He has lots of friends that would love to tip the scales in some kind of Israeli-Palestinian deal for commercial reasons.”
“As we’ve seen thus far, he has not performed well when it’s come to basic things like disclosing his financial assets,” Schweizer said of Kushner. “I think we’re now, in his financial disclosure, up to several dozen revisions where he’s forgotten to mention major relationships that he has, attachments to corporations, or completely failed to disclose major assets that he held. And that’s only six months into this administration for something as very basic as disclosure.”
“The question going forward to the president is not just the advice that you’re getting, but are you creating a circumstance where you are going to have conflicts of interest, and a family member may be in some sort of legal jeopardy because they’re not familiar with these rules, or don’t seem to be inclined to want to follow them,” he said.
Schweizer agreed with Marlow that there have been “serious missteps” in Kushner’s business dealings, along with some “serious ethical concerns.”
“The question becomes – sort of the classic one – is this incompetence, or is this a lack of commitment to honesty and integrity?” Schweizer wondered. “It’s something that everybody has got to try to answer for themselves, but the bottom line is with the Kushners, look, the father went to jail. The uncle who was running the company went to jail. And then you have these ethical issues that we’ve talked about, the fact that he is in charge of Middle East policy, but he’s had discussions and his father has had discussions with people in the Emirates about investing in their real estate.”
“These are very, very serious and contentious issues,” he argued. “I think it’s a bit much for people to expect somebody like Jared Kushner, with the financial liabilities that he’s facing on the 666 building and others, it’s a bit much to expect that he’s not going to take those into consideration when he’s trying to strike deals for Middle East peace, or he’s trying to reinvent government, all these other things that are part of his portfolio in the Trump White House. They are going to intersect, and that’s a huge problem.”
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern.