Kushner named Trump’s border-wall czar — along with practically everything else in government

Jared Kushner has a new problem to solve. According to the Washington Post, President Trump has recently tasked his son-in-law — whose to-do list already includes brokering peace in the Middle East, leading U.S. trade policy, reorganizing the entire U.S. government and reforming the criminal justice system — with overseeing the construction of his border wall ahead of the 2020 election. 

The Post reports that Kushner’s latest assignment was borne out of Trump’s frustration over the lack of progress that has been made on his core campaign promise, as neither Mexico nor Congress have been willing to pay for the wall. Since Trump took office, just 83 miles of new barriers have been completed along the U.S.-Mexico border, almost all of which is what U.S. Customs and Border Protection calls “replacement wall,” meaning it was erected along sections of the border where older, smaller fencing structures already existed. According to the Washington Post, Trump wants Kushner to see to it that at least 400 new miles of wall are built by the time voters go to the polls next November. 

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Matt York/AP

The highly ambitious goal is just the latest in a long and wide-ranging list of major projects that Kushner has undertaken since he and his wife, Ivanka, followed Trump to the White House in 2017.  

One of Kushner’s first and most daunting assignments from Trump was to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Nearly three years later, the White House has yet to unveil Kushner’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which experts already view as likely doomed when and if it is made public. A partial outline of the plan, unveiled in June, called for a $50 billion commitment, largely paid by America’s European and Arab allies, to promote economic development in Palestinian territories as an incentive to acquiesce in Israel’s continued domination of the region. 

Kushner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, July 31, 2019. (Photo: Kobi Gideon /GPO/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Initially, Kushner’s lack of foreign policy experience was largely viewed as the biggest hurdle to his success in the Middle East. However, efforts to negotiate with Palestinian leaders have been undermined by the Trump administration’s own policies, including the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, cutting all U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza, and shutting down the Palestinian consulate in Washington. Amid political uncertainty in Israel, last week’s announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, seemed likely to further reduce the prospects of Kushner’s would-be plan. 

The Middle East isn’t the only part of Kushner’s policy portfolio that has faced significant hurdles imposed by the president himself. Early in the administration, the soft-spoken Kushner emerged as an approachable middleman between his brash father-in-law and foreign officials. Kushner reportedly facilitated the first meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, and worked behind the scenes to smooth relations with Mexican officials after Trump spent much of his time on the campaign trail attacking the country and its citizens. Much to the dismay of many in Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto awarded Kushner Mexico’s highest honor for foreigners for his role in helping to negotiate a new trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

But nearly a year after the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USCMA) was signed by the respective countries’ presidents, its ratification has been stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, Trump’s trade war with China continues despite Kushner’s recent boast that the two countries have made a “fabulous deal” on trade. 

Before taking on the border wall, Kushner had been working on a proposal to overhaul the complex immigration system, but his plan failed to win over Republican senators. 

For someone whose work is often described as behind the scenes, it is perhaps fitting that Kushner’s biggest legislative accomplishment thus far — the passage of a major criminal justice reform bill — is one that Trump seems reluctant to talk about

Trump does want to talk about how he’s following through on his promise to build a wall on the southern border. While it remains unclear how, exactly, Kushner intends to accomplish the daunting task of erecting more than 400 miles of wall by Election Day, he’s reportedly already overruling the objections of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and senior CBP officials and pushing forward with a plan to live-stream the construction project by webcam — proving that he really can get some things done. 

From left, Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to the U.S.; H.R. McMaster, then U.S. national security adviser; Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi; President Trump; Fang Fenghui, chief of China's Central Military Commission’s Joint Staff Department; and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, June 2017. (Photo: Xinhua via Zuma Wire)

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