Senior Trump adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner sat down with Axios' Jonathan Swan for the premiere of its second season on HBO, covering topics which included racism, abortion, Palestinians, and the infamous Trump Tower meeting.
Perhaps the most awkward part came after Swan asked if President Trump has ever done anything racist. After emphatically defending the president, Kushner punted hard when pressed on controversial immigration policies instead of defending them.
Swan: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she calls, she has called President Trump a racist. Have you ever seen him say or do anything that you would describe as racist or bigoted?
Kushner: So the answer is no. Absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years and then run for president and be a racist. What I’ll say is that when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.
Swan: Was birtherism racist?
Kushner: Um, look, I wasn’t really involved in that.
Swan: I know you weren’t! Was it racist?
Kushner: Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.
Swan: I know you weren’t! Was it racist?
Kushner: Um, look, I know who the president is, and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So, again, I was not involved in that.
Swan: Did you wish he didn’t do that?
Kushner: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.
Swan: The other issue that often gets brought up in this conversation is that he campaigned on banning Muslims. Would you describe that as religiously bigoted?
Kushner: Look, I think that the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign, and I think …
Swan: He did! But do you wish he didn’t? Do you wish he didn’t make that speech?
Kushner: Uh, I think he’s here today, and I think he’s doing a lot of great things for the country, and that’s what I’m proud of.
When asked about the email that led to the infamous Trump Tower meeting, with the subject line "Re: Russia - Clinton - private and confidential," Kushner became defensive - suggesting that people are playing "Monday morning quarterback" and acting "self-righteous."
"Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I'm running three companies, I'm helping run the campaign. I get an email that says show up at 4 instead of 3 to a meeting that I had been told about earlier that I didn't know what the hell it was about," said Kushner.
When asked if he would call the FBI if he got a similar email in the future, Kushner said "I don't know. It's hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is is that we were not given anything that was salacious."
When asked whether he understands why Palestinians don't trust him and whether he thinks they can govern themselves, Kushner replied "I'm not here to be trusted," adding that he thinks that the Palestinians won't :judge anything based on trusting me," but will instead judge President Trump's peace plan "based on the facts and then make a determination: Do they think this will allow them to have a pathway to a better life or not?"
- When I asked Kushner whether the Palestinians deserve their own independent sovereign state with the capital in East Jerusalem, he replied: "There's a difference between the technocrats and ... the people." While "the technocrats are focused on very technocratic things" (translation: Palestinian statehood), "when I speak to Palestinian people, what they want is they want the opportunity to live a better life. They want the opportunity to pay their mortgage."
- Asked how he knows what the Palestinian people want given he's "not exactly walking on the streets of Ramallah every day," Kushner implied he's having lots of private conversations with regular Palestinians that people don't know about. -Axios
"I think there are some things that the current Palestinian government has done well, and there are some things that are lacking," continued Kushner. "And I do think that in order for the area to be investable, for investors to come in and want to invest in different industries and infrastructure and create jobs, you do need to have a fair judicial system, freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions, and so …"
Swan interjected: "Can they have freedom from any Israeli government or military interference?" to which Kushner replied: "I think that's a high bar."
On abortion, Kushner made clear that he doesn't agree with Trump.
Swan: So you agree with him on economics, on foreign policy. Where do you stand on abortion?
Kushner: Again, I was not the person who was elected.
Swan: So you agree with the president’s position?
Kushner: I’m here to enforce his positions. His position is the one that as a staffer in the White House, we’ll work to push.
(transcript via Slate)