Roles reduced, Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s fate uncertain

WASHINGTON (AP) — They spent their first year in Washington as an untouchable White House power couple, commanding expansive portfolios, outlasting rivals and enjoying unmatched access to the president. But Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have undergone a swift and stunning reckoning of late, their powers restricted, their enemies emboldened and their future in the West Wing uncertain.

Kushner, long the second-most powerful man in the West Wing, is under siege. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law has lost influential White House allies. He remains under the shadow of the Russia probe and has seen his business dealings come under renewed scrutiny. He has been stripped of his top security clearance, raising questions how he can successfully advance his ambitious agenda — including achieving Mideast peace, a goal that has eluded presidents for generations.

Kushner’s most powerful patron, the president himself, has wavered recently on whether his daughter and son-in-law belong in the White House anymore.

A frustrated Trump has griped about the wave of bad headlines generated by probes into Kushner’s business dealings and the status of his security clearance, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. The president also has wondered aloud if the couple would be better off returning home to New York.

At the same time, though, Trump has said he believes many of the attacks against Kushner are unfair and has lamented that the couple is going through such a turbulent time, according to the two people close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about Trump’s private comments.

“I think he’s been treated very unfairly,” Trump said late last month. “He’s a high-quality person.”

Kushner’s woes mushroomed in the past month, when accusations of spousal abuse emerged against White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Initially, the resulting firestorm — including questions about how Porter had interim clearance for top-secret information despite red flags in his background — threatened to engulf Chief of Staff John Kelly, the retired Marine hired to bring order to Trump’s chaotic West Wing.

Kelly seemed to stabilize his own standing, in part by ordering a reform of the White House security clearance process. And among senior aides, that change fell the hardest on Kushner, who had been working with interim access to top-secret information. And he was doing that as investigators worked through his family’s complicated real estate dealings and as special counsel Robert Mueller probes Russian connections to the Trump team.

A week ago, Kushner’s security clearance level was downgraded, leaving White House aides to wonder just how many indignities Kushner and Ivanka Trump are willing to suffer. Even if recent events and revelations don’t trigger a departure, they have demonstrated that the West Wing clout of “Javanka,” as the couple is often referred to, is a far cry from what it once was.

Since taking office last year, Kelly has prioritized creating formal lines of authority and decision-making. Kushner resisted efforts to formalize his role — which early in the administration made him something of a shadow secretary of state — and he has grown frustrated with the chief of staff’s attempts to restrict the couple’s access to the president.

The couple perceives Kelly’s crackdown on security clearances as a direct shot at them, according to White House aides and outside advisers. But one White House official disputed that account, suggesting that Kushner welcomed Kelly’s efforts to organize the West Wing, allowing him to more singularly focus on his portfolio.

Kelly, in turn, has been angered by what he views as the couple’s freelancing. He blames them for changing Trump’s mind at the last minute and questions what exactly they do all day, according to one White House official and an outside ally.

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