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The Clown Prince of Trumplandia
Jared Kushner (sort of) wrote a book.
Quick Note: No livestream tonight. Summer is basically over and we’re trying to get the last-gasps of vacation while getting ready for back-to-school. I suspect most of you are, too. So we’re taking off Thursday Night Bulwark for the next couple weeks.
See you in September.
Also: Today we have some spinach and some cotton candy and then I’m going to ask you for some help. Let’s do the candy first.
1. He Went to Jared
I know Charlie mentioned this already, but I asked you not to dunk yesterday in the comments and you did a great job of being thoughtful and discerning. So today you can throw down like Shaq on the meanest NYT book review I’ve ever read. It’s about Jared Kushner’s “memoir”:
This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes: the two singed bathtubs, the gravel driveway and the mailbox. Kushner’s fealty to Trump remains absolute. Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo.
The tone is college admissions essay. Typical sentence: “In an environment of maximum pressure, I learned to ignore the noise and distractions and instead to push for results that would improve lives.”
Every political cliché gets a fresh shampooing. “Even in a starkly divided country, there are always opportunities to build bridges,” Kushner writes. And, quoting the former White House deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell: “Every day here is sand through an hourglass, and we have to make it count.” So true, for these are the days of our lives.
Kushner, poignantly, repeatedly beats his own drum. He recalls every drop of praise he’s ever received; he brings these home and he leaves them on the doorstep. You turn the pages and find, almost at random, colleagues, some of them famous, trying to be kind, uttering things like:
It’s really not fair how the press is beating you up. You made a very positive contribution
I don’t know how you do this every day on so many topics. That was really hard! You deserve an award for all you’ve done.
I’ve said before, and I’ll say again. This agreement would not have happened if it wasn’t for Jared.
Jared did an amazing job working with Bob Lighthizer on the incredible USMCA trade deal we signed yesterday.
Jared’s a genius. People complain about nepotism — I’m the one who got the steal here.
I’ve been in Washington a long time, and I must say, Jared is one of the best lobbyists I’ve ever seen.
A therapist might call these cries for help.
Add your own in the comments. I want to see devastatingly mean, but clever and funny. Ask yourselves: WWWD? (What Would Wieseltier Do?)
2. The Mar-a-Lago Investigation
Here’s Ryan Goodman from Just Security with a development that could be important:
As this article was going to press, ABC News published a report that weeks before the Mar-a-Lago search, former President Donald Trump’s associate Kash Patel “vowed to retrieve classified documents from the National Archives and publish them on his website.”
If that scheme involved Trump himself and the Mar-a-Lago documents, it could have significant legal implications for the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation. Any plan to release the documents could potentially trigger specific elements of the Espionage Act and other criminal statutes designed with the core purpose of preventing unlawful dissemination of classified and other sensitive government documents. . . . [C]redible evidence of such a plan also would likely factor into the Justice Department’s decision on whether to bring criminal charges.
The ABC News report is based on an interview Patel gave in June. However, Just Security has collected six other interviews and statements in which Patel discussed and elaborated on this plan.
Read the whole thing. Here’s the nub:
Several federal criminal statutes make it illegal to remove, retain, or exercise gross negligence in storing government documents. However, the more serious crimes include deliberately planning to transmit classified or other highly sensitive materials to the public. The Espionage Act, for example, makes it a crime for anyone who “attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted” closely held national defense information “to any person not entitled to receive it.” A prison sentence of up to 10 years can be imposed for violations of the statute.
If DoJ was motivated by a belief that Trump and/or his official representatives were planning to disseminate the classified information they had retained illegally, that could explain why the FBI sought a warrant to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago.
I understand that we’re talking in ifs and coulds. We don’t know yet. But this scenario would make sense.
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Two things: First, an old friend of mine, John Noonan, has organized a GoFundMe for an Afghan family who made it to America. The dad was an interpreter who put his life on the line to work with U.S. soldiers. One of his kids was shot during the fall of Kabul. They got out of Afghanistan in the final hours with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Today the family is in Texas. And they need help.
Second: Bushra Seddique’s story about escaping from Afghanistan is in the Atlantic and will stop you dead:
The text message came a little before 5 p.m. It was August 26, 2021. Eleven days earlier, the Taliban had overthrown the Afghan government. My friend—a German writer and academic—had been trying to help my family flee the country. Now she told me she had gotten my two younger sisters and me on the list for a flight to Frankfurt, a last-minute evacuation negotiated by the German government and a nonprofit group.
“What about my mom?” I asked. She didn’t reply for a moment. “I was not able to get her on this flight,” she answered. Please, I begged her: “My brothers are gone and my father is living with his second wife. She just has us, no one else, for God’s sake please do something.”But there was nothing she could do. “These are the names that they offered me,” she wrote. “I know it’s a terrible choice.”
She said we had 20 minutes to decide whether to stay or go. We would need to pack, then take a taxi to a secret location, where we’d meet the buses that would drive the evacuees to the airport.
Just a few weeks earlier, my life had been relatively normal.
Read the whole thing. And don’t forget Afghanistan.
That TNR essay immediately following 9/11 remains one of the most vicious pieces of writing I’ve ever witnessed. It’s the literary equivalent of watching Jack Reacher cripple a dozen bikers with less than a thousand words. Sample amazing:
“The man who edits Vanity Fair has ruled that the age of cynicism is over. He would know.”
“Gopnik has a skill for shrinking everything in the universe to the scale of a bourgeois amenity, but he surpassed himself with the observation that the odor of the destruction was ‘almost like the smell of smoked mozzarella.’ On September 11, knowingness! I was not in Manhattan when it was attacked, but I am certain that Gopnik’s observation is a lie. It is also the remark of a hick, the expression of a desperate provincialism. In the provinces, at least, they struggle against their confinements.”
But Wieseltier reserved the deepest cut for John Updike: “All this is the testimony of a man who has words for everything and nothing but words.”