Jared Kushner seized the reins of American diplomacy by circumventing Rex Tillerson, new book says
President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner told former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to back off on foreign affairs and worked to cut him out of key diplomatic relationships as Kushner grabbed control of US foreign policy in the early days of the administration, according to a new book chronicling the lives of Kushner, his family and his wife, Ivanka Trump.
Author Vicky Ward's new book, "Kushner, Inc.," paints a picture of the White House senior adviser -- at that point neophyte to politics, government and foreign diplomacy -- making a set of power plays in his first months in Washington, often at Tillerson's expense. The book argues Kushner's belief that he could fix international problems by himself worried other diplomats -- including a longtime Kushner acquaintance involved in diplomatic relations, who told Ward that the President's son-in-law "becomes quite self-confident quite quickly. In areas that he has no experience. And that's a dangerous thing for anybody to do."
The president's son-in-law was so directly involved in foreign affairs that sometimes the State Department could be cut out of his dealings altogether, Ward reports.
"Foreign ministers relied so heavily on Kushner as their conduit to the government that foreign documents started showing up in meetings in the increasingly lean State Department, and no one knew where they'd come from," Ward writes in the book, a copy of which was obtained by CNN. "The answer was usually Kushner."
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell, previously told CNN that "every point that Ms. Ward mentioned in what she called her 'fact checking' stage was entirely false. It seems she has written a book of fiction rather than any serious attempt to get the facts. Correcting everything wrong would take too long and be pointless."
One of the prime examples Ward gives of Kushner's grip on important American diplomatic relationships played out in a Washington restaurant after Kushner told Tillerson "to leave Mexico to him because he'd have NAFTA wrapped up by October," Ward writes.
Tillerson was unaware that then-Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray Caso was in Washington -- until they coincidentally dined at the same restaurant, according to the book. International protocol dictates that foreign ministers contact their counterparts first when visiting other countries.
"Tillerson came over to say hello after he'd finished his meal," Ward writes. " 'Next time, do get in touch with me,' he told Videgaray, who explained he was there to see Kushner. Tillerson was polite about the snub, but he told colleagues it was inappropriate."
Tillerson did not respond to a request for comment on Ward's book Thursday. When asked for comment on this story, the White House directed CNN to a previous comment on "Kushner, Inc." from press secretary Sarah Sanders.
"It's sad, but not surprising, the media would spend time promoting a book based on shady anonymous sources and false information instead of all the incredible work Jared and Ivanka are doing for the country," Sanders said Tuesday. "The author, on her own website, listed this book in the category of "fiction" -- until recently changing it. Her initial representation was accurate."
Kushner, who has taken the lead on many of the Trump administration's priorities in the Middle East, also told the then-secretary of state that he would be in charge of negotiations involving Israel.
Ward reports Kushner told Tillerson, "I want Israel," according to a former Tillerson aide.
Tillerson was also concerned that Kushner negotiating with China could be a disastrous security threat, given the Kushner Companies' reported attempts to do business with Chinese holding company Anbang and the key role that China played in diplomacy with North Korea.
A person who spoke with him on the subject told Ward, "Tillerson thought Kushner might even topple the US's 'maximum pressure campaign" -- a strategy to close North Korea off through sanctions and trade restrictions that depended on China's support.
But Tillerson was determined to get on Kushner's and Trump's radars. He tried to work with Kushner "because he thought it was the right thing to do," someone familiar with Tillerson's thinking told Ward, and he tried to get on both men's calendars as often as possible to convey that he had experience with the US's negotiating partners.
But the only Cabinet member who regularly listened to him was former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis -- who called him "Saint Rex," Ward writes.