Making Deals with Donald Trump and Jared Kushner Taught Me About Deception

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Senior Advisor Jared Kushner waits for a meeting with Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak, U.S. President Donald Trump and others in the Cabinet Room of the White House Sept. 12, 2017 in Washington, D/C. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner waits for a meeting with Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak, U.S. President Donald Trump and others in the Cabinet Room of the White House Sept. 12, 2017 in Washington, D/C. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

By MARY DIXIE CARTER

9:25 AM EDT
IDEAS
Carter, a former publishing director of the New York Observer, is a writer based in Brooklyn.

About 13 years ago, I walked into Donald Trump’s office hoping to sell him advertising in The New York Observer. At that time, I was publishing director of the newspaper, which was still owned by my father, Arthur Carter, but I could see a potential sale of the struggling paper looming and sought to fend it off. In those days, I sold ads because I had the noble idea that I could save the newspaper. That didn’t happen. But over time, I did grasp something about the nature of selling and witnessed a range of ways in which it’s achieved.

That day, Trump — who was speaking on the phone, to one of his children, I believe — smiled, greeted me wordlessly and pointed to a chair. He had no intention of pausing his activities because I had arrived for a meeting. He continued on in a seemingly friendly, inclusive manner, but ignored the stated purpose of my visit. He picked up the phone intermittently, while employees wandered in and out of the office. A consummate performer, he appeared to be conscious of his audience. I tried to corral his attention and began my sales pitch several times, but I don’t think I spoke two uninterrupted sentences. He chatted with me off and on, talking fondly of his kids, then asked my advice on interior design for one of his properties. It was a question about gilded molding, I believe.

“You like this one?”

“Yes.”

And then, my allotted time was up.

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On my way out, Trump beamed at me. “You’re so thin!” he cried out. I didn’t have a good response to his oddly inappropriate comment, which he probably intended as flattery. I smiled awkwardly and waved goodbye. Unfortunately, he didn’t buy ads from me that day or any other day. I doubt he ever intended to. He probably met with me hoping to ingratiate himself and get some positive coverage from the Observer.

A year or two later, in 2006, I was seated with my father in his living room and 25-year-old Kushner walked in. This time, we were selling the whole newspaper. I don’t mean to inflate my role — I was merely on the selling team, just a passive spectator. Nevertheless, I had a personal stake in the outcome, having gone to work for my father with the idea that I’d take over when he retired. I experienced the sale of the paper as a crushing blow. I’d moved to New York to work there and invested five years of my life. But if it was inevitable, then at least I could hope for a like-minded owner, ideally someone who’d welcome my presence and assistance.

Kushner positioned himself as a naïve protégé who looked up to my father as a mentor. His family’s name had recently been sullied by his own father’s misdeeds and subsequent time in prison. He had yet to meet Ivanka Trump. In retrospect, it seems clear to me that his desire to acquire the newspaper had to do with rehabilitating his family’s image. The Huffington Post reported that a family friend of the Kushners said the move was one of three suggestions public relations guru Howard Rubenstein gave Jared. (Kushner Companies and Rubenstein denied the account.)

Outwardly modest and guileless, eyes and chin down, he talked in his soft-spoken voice of his respect and admiration for this venerable institution. He said if he were to own the newspaper, he would be eager for my father’s continued participation as well as mine — in fact, he seemed enthusiastic about my staying on at the Observer. Lastly, he implied he had enough money to keep the paper running forever.

Kushner was effective in selling himself to my father and me, but I would grow to realize that his interest in the Observer had nothing to with a love of journalism, or even a passing interest in journalism. Once he owned the paper, colleagues told me he said he found it excruciating to read — and acknowledged as much in a 2009 New York magazine interview. Once he owned the paper, we barely spoke. Kushner didn’t fire me, nor did he formally demote me. But I left after six months, when he’d made it clear to me, with his lack of words or a blink in my direction, that he did not intend to work with me.

Almost everyone has to sell, no matter your occupation. It’s one of the hardest and most underestimated jobs. Though I didn’t excel at it, I recognize what it requires: sharp intuition — the ability to discover who people are. Salespeople are social creatures who enjoy learning. They figure out people in order to provide them with what they want or need. At least the principled ones do.

But there are other sorts of salespeople who take the exact opposite tactic — you might call them show people. They are the ones who go through life projecting an image ceaselessly. They believe success comes from the ability to ignore information that doesn’t suit them. They write their own narrative, and they commit wholly, relentlessly.

Every president this country has ever had was to some degree a salesman. But it is clear to anyone who has done business with President Trump that he views the presidency as an extension of sales: in his view, it is an occupation that has little to do with listening. To take in new information, he would need to stop projecting an image.

You could have seen this at the listening session held at the White House on Feb. 26, in which the President spoke with governors about school shootings. Twenty-five seconds into remarks from Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the President crosses his arms; when Inslee stopped speaking, Trump quickly refuted what the governor said and moved on to someone who agreed with him.

Kushner, too, never stops projecting an image. Though Senior Advisor to the President and Trump’s son-in-law, the public has little first-hand knowledge of his character. Witness this recent and somewhat puzzling story on BuzzFeed, which emphasizes his opportunistic streak: “Kushner Sought To Sell Newspaper to Trump’s Political Enemies” shortly after the 2016 election.

Perhaps wishful thinking led me to believe in Kushner’s initial sincerity when he bought the Observer because it served me to do so, but eventually I felt duped. Once he owned the newspaper, his deferential attitude was replaced by a posture of superiority. That air of superiority, as opposed to authority, defied common sense because he had no experience in journalism. At times, it seemed to me that he was acting a role and knew he was. At other times, it seemed more likely that Kushner had come to believe his own performance. Given his prominent role today, either is a disturbing prospect. Apparently similar to President Trump, he didn’t and doesn’t know that leadership has to do with learning and listening. For this White House, leadership is about presentation. All you need to do is say it, and then it will be true.

Carter’s work has appeared in The EconomistThe San Francisco ChronicleThe Chicago TribuneThe Philadelphia InquirerThe New York Observer and other publications.

Mr Comey said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give a timetable for its completion

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Trump Russia claims: FBI’s Comey confirms investigation of election ‘interference’
Media caption What FBI Director Comey said on Trump, Russia and wiretaps

FBI director James Comey has confirmed for the first time that the FBI is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

However, Mr Comey said his agency had seen no evidence to back up President Trump’s claim that his phones had been tapped by the Obama administration.

He was giving evidence to the congressional intelligence committee.

The Trump administration said nothing had changed and there was “no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion”.

Russia has always denied attempting to influence the US presidential election.

The FBI investigation would examine possible links between individuals in the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mr Comey said.

The FBI would also assess whether crimes were committed, he said.

Mr Comey said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give a timetable for its completion.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

putinImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Mr Putin “hated Mrs Clinton so much” that he had a strong preference for her rival, Mr Comey said

National Security Agency (NSA) chief Admiral Mike Rogers also appeared before the committee.

He said the NSA stood by an intelligence community report published in January, which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to harm the campaign of Mr Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

‘No wiretap on Trump Tower’

Mr Comey said he had no information on unsubstantiated claims tweeted by Mr Trump earlier this month that former president Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower.

This was despite looking carefully for such evidence, he said. The Department of Justice also had no information, he said.


Analysis – BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher

FBI Director James Comey (L) and National Security Agency Director Mike RogersImage copyrightAFP

What FBI Director James Comey didn’t say during intelligence hearings today on possible Russian meddling in the 2016 US election was as important as what he did say.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who had ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians? No comment. Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone, who reportedly had communications with individuals who hacked the Democratic National Committee emails? No comment. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign after leaked evidence surfaced that he had communicated with a Russian ambassador about US sanctions? No comment.

“I don’t want to answer any questions about a US person,” Mr Comey said.

All of this is evidence that the investigation isn’t just ongoing, it’s substantive and far-reaching.

While Democrats will likely be encouraged by this, it was telling that Republicans pursued the White House line that the topic of greatest concern was the intelligence leaks that put this story in the headlines.

If Mr Trump can consolidate his party’s support, it will go a long way towards insulating the president against any fallout from this investigation.


Meanwhile, Admiral Rogers strongly denied that the NSA had asked Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency to spy on Mr Trump – a claim that had been repeated by Mr Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer.

The allegation “clearly frustrates a key ally of ours”, he added.

GCHQ has described the claim as “utterly ridiculous”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump at a press conferenceImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption Mr Trump raised eyebrows after he suggested both he and Mrs Merkel had been wiretapped by Mr Obama

Mr Trump’s recent joke about how Mr Obama had wiretapped both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and him “complicates things” with an ally, Admiral Rogers added.

However, Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said it was still possible that other surveillance activities had been used against Mr Trump and his associates.

What are the allegations?

In January, US intelligence agencies said Kremlin-backed hackers had broken into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing messages in order to help Mr Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

“That was a fairly easy judgement for the community,” Mr Comey said. “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flipside of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.”

However, late last summer the Russians concluded that Mr Trump had no chance of winning, based on polls at the time, and so focused on undermining Mrs Clinton, Mr Comey said.

Media caption Trump’s wiretap saga explained in two minutes

Both intelligence chiefs said that Russia had made its intervention in last year’s election campaign unusually obvious, perhaps to further its aim of undermining US democracy.

Mr Comey said Russia had succeeded in this goal, by sowing chaos, division and discord.

Mr Trump has since faced allegations that his campaign team had links to Russian officials.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said he saw no evidence of any collusion, up until the time he left his post in January.

Which campaign members have been accused of deception?

Two senior officials in the Trump administration have been caught up in the allegations – former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

Mr Flynn was fired last month after he misled the White House about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before he was appointed national security adviser.

Michael FlynnImage copyright AP
Image caption Michael Flynn encouraged a softer policy on Russia and a harder line on Iran

He allegedly discussed US sanctions with ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Mr Sessions was accused by Democrats of lying under oath during his confirmation hearing in January.

He said he had “no communications with the Russians”, but it later emerged that he had met Mr Kislyak during the campaign.

Mr Sessions denied any wrongdoing, but removed himself from an FBI inquiry into Russia’s alleged interference in the election.

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