Amy Wilentz, a long-time contributing editor at The Nation, was Jerusalem correspondent for The New Yorker. She’s the author of several award-winning books, most recently Farewell Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Jon Wiener: Jared Kushner, the most trusted man in the Trump White House, has been on page one of the Los Angeles Times recently. One story was headlined, “Nations feel cut off from the Trump White House.” What was that about?
Amy Wilentz: Trump has a problem, especially at the State Department: He has not made appointments or filled ambassadorships throughout the world. So foreign ministries don’t know how to communicate. They’re used to dealing with the desk and the ambassador from the United States, who know about their area or their specific country, and that doesn’t exist right now. So they’re calling Jared. It’s kind of frightening, because he doesn’t really know anything about these places.
JW: According to this LA Times article, the Saudis went even farther than using Jared as their communications link to Trump.
AW: The Saudi king skipped over the crown prince who was supposed to be his successor, and instead named another prince, Mohammed bin Salman. He is a 30-year-old. After the 2016 election, he and Jared apparently became friendly—sharing dinners, exchanging phone calls. The two of them worked together to help plan Trump’s visit to Riyadh—you may remember when Trump bowed before the Saudi king and accepted that medal of honor.
JW: So the successor in Saudi Arabia—
JW:—was picked because he knows Jared Kushner.
AW: But keep this in mind: No one knows whether this new crown prince will be crown prince if one day Trump is no longer president. Saudi royals can make special succession plans that we don’t know about.
JW: Recently, the LA Times ran a page-one piece headlined, “Jersey City has turned sharply against Jared Kushner.” What was that about?