In a West Wing in Transition, Trump Tries to Stand Firm on the Shutdown

In a West Wing in Transition, Trump Tries to Stand Firm on the Shutdown


Mr. Mulvaney’s more hands-off approach to the family members has allowed Mr. Kushner to position himself among lawmakers on Capitol Hill as the person who can deliver to Mr. Trump what he wants. The dynamic, according to multiple White House officials, is similar to the opening days of the administration, when the staff to the new president was just beginning to meet with Washington officials and Mr. Kushner often told people that “everything runs through me.”

This time, however, Mr. Mulvaney is doing nothing to curb his influence. In fact, he is treating Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump as assets, rather than rivals. And they are seeing a new ally. On Sunday night they hosted Mr. Mulvaney and his wife at their Kalorama mansion for a social dinner.

His appearance in B-roll shots on cable news channels, traipsing the halls of Congress shoulder to shoulder with Vice President Mike Pence, have left current and former Trump aides frustrated with the appearance that Mr. Kushner is serving as a de facto chief of staff. Multiple White House officials said he is ascendant in the West Wing after his successful role in helping to pass a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill.

But people close to Mr. Kushner insist that he is simply trying to provide assistance during a difficult period and is not looking to undermine Mr. Mulvaney’s role, while Mr. Kushner has insisted he is planning to return to his longer-term projects when the shutdown is over.

Under Mr. Kelly, any conversations with elected officials were required to be coordinated through the former legislative affairs director, Marc Short. But during Mr. Mulvaney’s tenure, Mr. Kushner has reached out to Democratic lawmakers and then briefed Shahira Knight, the legislative director, on his calls after the fact. The new system has been greenlighted by Mr. Mulvaney, who has also shrugged off any issue with Mr. Kushner taking a lead role.

But it is not clear that Mr. Kushner’s outreach, or any relationships he has forged over the past two years with Democratic lawmakers, has resulted in any movement in getting Mr. Trump the success he is seeking in funding the border wall.

A senior White House aide said on Wednesday night that the view from inside the White House was that neither side was willing to take the leap and compromise. And Mr. Trump’s ability to make a national emergency declaration, the aide said, was still an option that was on the table.



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