Earlier today, WIRED shared a portion of a speech and a subsequent question-and-answer session that Jared Kushner presented to congressional interns on Monday. You can now hear the audio of Kushner’s talk in its entirety.
While some portions of the recording have muffled sound, the hour-long address gives rare insight into the thought process of one of President Trump’s most trusted advisers. Kushner rarely makes public statements, and his previously reported comments from the intern talk regarding the Middle East and Russia describe the administration’s positions with unusual frankness.
Neither Kushner nor the White House have commented on the leak of what was supposed to have been an off-the-record address. Representative Gregg Harper, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, however, provided the following comment to WIRED: “The lecture series brings prominent professionals in their respective fields to speak to interns about a variety of topics, from policy discussions to advice on pursuing a successful career in Washington, DC, and around the world. Mr. Kushner was exceptional in doing just that in his remarks. The Committee on House Administration cohosts the summer lecture series and has had over 40 speakers on the calendar this summer. We were honored to have Mr. Kushner address this bipartisan and bicameral group of interns. He was able to speak for almost an hour and insisted on taking questions from the bipartisan audience. It was a great experience for the interns, and we were encouraged by his remarks and his willingness to participate in the series. It is unfortunate that someone who lacked personal integrity ruined the off-the-record setting of this lecture, which was solely for the interns’ educational benefit.”
While the section of the talk published previously by WIRED outlined Kushner’s thoughts on the ongoing Israel–Palestine conflict, the presidential adviser and son-in-law touched on a number of other topics during the event, including how he got his start in business, his political evolution, and what he’s learned during his time in the White House. Following are a few transcribed excerpts; you can listen to the full audio, which has been lightly edited to remove identifying details, above.
On getting his start in business:
So I went to NYU law school and business school, and then I was working at my district attorney’s office, which was really one of the neatest experiences you can ever have. Then I had a life experience where we had a family situation where I needed to come to my companies—my family business—much earlier than I thought, and that was kind of [unintelligible]. Along the way, I did a lot of dumb things, I bought a newspaper—which was … very interesting._
On how his first Trump rally made him rethink his personal politics:
At that point no one really knew who I was, so I just started walking around in the crowd. And I realized that the people in the crowd didn’t look like what the media or his opponents were trying to portray those people looking like. They were old, they were young, they were white, they were black, they were really indicative of all different parts. These were people who really felt like they were left behind. And for me, it started a real—I’d say it started a real process of exploration.
So I grew up in New Jersey, I lived for the last 10 years in the Upper West Side of New York, and you assume that you know so much about so many things. I read books, I talked to the smartest people—all these different things. But every single thing that he was saying that the crowd was going nuts for were things that were very different from the things that people from the circles I’d been in before had espoused as kind of the optimal situations for what best policy should be.
So you go to a [unintelligible] in New York and you say, “You have to call your senator and your congressman and tell them they have to get with Common Core. It’s the greatest thing in the world.” So I think, “Hey, Common Core’s great.” But then he’d be up there in front of 12,000 people saying, “We’re gonna end Common Core! And we’re gonna take it to the people!” And the crowd would go nuts. And I’d say, “Wait a minute, I thought Common Core was great?” So what it did for me was really make me explore my positions and really confront a lot of people who I a) wouldn’t necessarily have been exposed to and b) wouldn’t necessarily have had the opportunity to engage with on a lot of topics that I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about.
On how he judges his own performance:
My wife and I talk a lot about this experience whenever we get the chance. And we basically say, you know, “What are we going to judge our performance on when we’re done with this?” And we’re not going to look back and say [unintelligible] somebody say something mean to us or there was a little article or something else. We’re going to look back and say, “Did we get accomplished all the things we thought we had the ability to get accomplished? Did we work as hard as we could, and utilize every minute and every ounce of energy we had in our bodies to try to push for as much as possible as we could do during the time that we’re doing this public service?” So that’s really important.
On the Trump White House’s biggest accomplishments thus far:
I would say that one of the couple-day periods that I was most proud of in the White House was the days we—the missile strike in Syria. I found out about the chemical weapon [unintelligible] when I came back from Iraq, which I had [unintelligible]. We got there, we landed at, like, 6 am. And we were in the Situation Room at 7 am, just for a Security Council meeting. [Unintelligible] options for the president on what to do.
And what I saw there was a really hard [unintelligible] process, and I was very proud of the president. It’s not a light decision to make—you know, to send a missile anywhere. The loss of life, and obviously it would hit [unintelligible] Russia [unintelligible] start World War III, as well. You also have to weigh that with not allowing people to get away with using chemical weapons.
On Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi:
You know, this is one way the president is very different. Because people talk about human rights. And I never understood why politicians from government made speeches condemning these world leaders on human rights. Because at the end of the day, it’s like, [unintelligible] Egypt, this guy, President el-Sisi…. He was a general in the army, he basically took out the Muslim Brotherhood, and in a lot of ways saved Egypt from a very, very radicalized direction.