Retired four-star Army General Barry McCaffrey said on MSNBC today that having President Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner as a leading representative of the United States handling sensitive foreign policy matters is a huge threat to the national policy-making process and an outrage
“Putting Jared Kushner, a 30-something person with no foreign policy or defense policy experience, as a leading representative of the United States is simply outrageous,” said McCaffrey, who also served in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet.
The general points out that any other official government representative, from a State Department senior official to a diplomat to a former general, would all have to pass muster with the U.S. Senate and get proper clearances from the intelligence community – but none of that is the case with Kushner.
Having Kushner cut out the U.S. State Department, added McCaffrey, while he has “one on one contact” with foreign powers “by phone and in person is a huge threat to a rational policy making process.”
McCaffrey said that (National Security Advisor) H.R. McMaster “allegedly has been commenting on (Kushner). The Secretary of State was outraged. It just has no precedent in my view in American government in modern times.”
What it reeks of is a kind of authoritarian strongman approach where the dictator only trusts his family members to deliver his secret plans.
“This is the personalization of a family business,” said McCaffrey, “dealing with U.S. policy.”
McCaffrey’s concerns echo those of a group of 25 Democratic lawmakers who wrote a letter to Chief of Staff John Kelly recently demanding that he fire Kushner.
“The lawmakers wrote, reports The Hill, that it is “impossible for the American people or their elected Representatives to have faith that Jared Kushner will put their interests above those of his own personal and financial interests.”
The letter called out Kushner for his dealings with foreign leaders.
One of the most troubling examples, which McCaffrey cites, was Kushner’s secret visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this year where he met with the new reigning crown prince for a series of closed-door one on one meetings, after which the Intercept reports the prince told others that he had Kushner in his pocket.
Not long after that the Crown Prince rounded up a number of his political opponents in Saudi Arabia and imprisoned, tortured and even murdered some of them.
That included several people who had been identified as threats to Mohamed bin Salman’s position based on top-secret U.S. intelligence which he should not have shared.
On MSNBC today, McCaffrey said whenever a high-level American makes policy contacts as Kushner did in Saudi Arabia, he must have the US. Ambassador or others from the State Department present as well.
“You always want a note taker there,” explained the General. “Again, this kind of secretive one-on-one, the son-in-law, it sounds like some third world country.”
Foreign leaders are not dumb or blind and they see that there is an opportunity here. The Washington Post reported last month foreign leaders from at least four countries have talked about how to use Kushner’s lack of experience and direct access to Trump to gain an advantage.
Kushner does not even have top-level U.S. security clearance, so the fact he is dealing in these matters is inappropriate and a real danger to the entire system that for generations has insured the integrity of American diplomacy and policy.
What is worse is that his inexperience and insensitivity reflects a president who makes his own moves without proper counsel from the State Department, the intelligence community or even his own advisors, as he did when he suddenly decided to meet with the dictator of North Korea in a one on one meeting with no preconditions and no proper advance preparation.
General McCaffrey also had a warning about and for Trump today on MSNBC. When asked if he thought the Russians had some dirt on Trump, he said it was a reason for concern for the U..S. and for Trump.
“It’s unknowable,” said McCaffrey. “If I was the President’s lawyers I’d say if you think they have audio, video, financial dealings that are outrageous, he better get it out now because Putin will stick it to him prior to the next election or after he leaves office.”
“His behavior,” added McCaffrey ominously, “his policy decisions are not explicable in terms of U.S. foreign policy.”
What it means it that Trump personally, and by enabling a foreign policy neophyte like Kushner, is creating problems that can lead to bad outcomes, even great danger, for America in the future, and none of his bragging or lies will solve that terrible problem.