Amy Wilentz, a longtime 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. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Jon Wiener: Jared Kushner has serious legal problems stemming from the Russia investigations, but they have not prevented him from going out.
Amy Wilentz: Jared and Ivanka went to a party given by Lally Weymouth on July 4th weekend in the Hamptons. Lally Weymouth is a socialite, but she’s also the senior associate editor of The Washington Post, because of nepotism. Her mother was the editor and publisher of The Washington Post: Katherine Graham. Republicans were there: In addition to Ivanka and Jared, Kellyanne Conway, and David Koch of the Koch brothers. Also Dina Powell, the deputy national-security adviser in the Trump White House. On the other hand, Chuck Schumer was also there, along with top Democratic funders George Soros and Stephen Spielberg. Various members of the global financial community were also there—all at this party, sipping champagne together, side by side—making you wonder who’s running the world.
JW: But we are told that the Democrats and Republicans have never been farther apart, that we have the most polarizing president in history, that there’s been a complete breakdown of bipartisanship in Washington, DC.
AW: I call this sort of event “biparty-san.” This is the supra-national elite at work. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, and I’m not one, but they do what they do because it’s in their interest. And their interests transcend the divisions in Congress. They’re beyond patriotism and nationalism; they’re functioning in another world, a bigger world. The Trumps are a part of this because they run a real-estate conglomerate that has global interests. The Russian oligarchs are also part of this. They’ve known each other for a long time. A person like Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and the rest of the crew, is attached to many of these influential supra-national figures in Russia. I think that’s why Don Jr., having grown up in that kind of world, doesn’t even understand what it means to have Russians offer you a thing of value like information on Hillary Clinton.
JW: Jared has his own, separate problems. In addition to the reports about his presence at that meeting with the Russian promising dirt on Clinton, there was the story that McClatchy published, that the Justice Department and the House and Senate intelligence committees are looking into whether the Trump campaign’s digital team coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 election. The head of the Trump campaign’s digital team, for some reason, was Jared Kushner. What was all this about?
AW: This is about Russian hackers using bots and trolls. Apparently, there are ways to insert fake news into social media in a broad way. The question is whether they coordinated the use of those techniques with the Trump campaign, and Jared, to target specific demographic areas that were crucial to winning the number of votes in the Electoral College required to put Trump over the top.
JW: I don’t quite understand why Jared is the expert on digital and Internet technology here—but that was his job in the campaign.
AW: Yes, Jared is often doing things that he’s not capable of doing. But nonetheless, if you’re the head of something, you’re responsible for it. So if that happened under his watch it would be a severe problem for him. It is also a problem for him that he was at that meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya. In fact, the only reason we know about that meeting is because Donald Trump Junior made the mistake of inviting Jared, and Jared made the mistake of going. Jared had omitted that information when he applied for a security clearance. Then, when he revised his security-clearance papers, he had to put this meeting down. That is how it came to light.
JW: Meanwhile, Ivanka is her father’s favorite, but her star continues to dim for the rest of us.
AW: The problem is the way she conducts her business around the world. It’s in the garment industry, and the global garment industry all over the world is what we call a shonda, a shameful thing. So it’s not only Ivanka who’s a shameful employer, but since she’s championing women’s rights in the United States and violating them around the globe in her factories, it’s dimming her star. But I also think she’s in hiding. I think that she sees that her husband is a target right now of justifiable anger on the part a lot of people she has known through her life. And her brother Don Jr. is a target as well. I guess she’d rather be out of sight for this moment.
JW: Her other brother, Eric, is also in trouble, for giving money raised by his charity to the Trump organization instead of to children’s cancer. And there’s one other Trump kid: Tiffany. But Tiffany is never in the news.
AW: That’s because she’s the smart one.