WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner spoke in public on Monday. And that alone counted as news.
In a White House full of loud voices, the powerful senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump tends to keep his mouth shut. He shuns televised interviews, avoids public speeches and rarely addresses a meeting when cameras are rolling, preferring to work behind the scenes.
So Washington took notice Monday when Kushner presided over a White House meeting of technology executives and actually took the microphone. It took a few moments for Kushner to get the attention of the dozens of suited executives gathered in an ornate room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. But eventually the room quieted and he could finally be heard.
The slim, stylish former real estate executive addressed the crowd in a soft but confident tenor, revealing the New York influences around his vowels. He pledged that “by modernizing these systems we will meaningfully improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans.”
News outlets pounced. “Jared Kushner Actually Has A Voice,” read a headline on the Huffington Post. Time’s online headline read: “Hear Jared Kushner Speak in a Rare Public Appearance.”
Kushner sometimes speaks at sanctioned background briefings for reporters. He also briefly popped in to an interview that his wife, Ivanka Trump, did with CBS at the White House last month. He declined to join the interview, but when asked if he enjoyed their late-night walks on the Washington Mall, Kushner said: “Beautiful. Great company. Beautiful scenery.”
While his public speaking has been limited at best, Kushner has been busy with an expansive policy portfolio, charged with modernizing government and leading an effort to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He will head to the Middle East this week to take part in talks toward that goal.
Kushner has also come under scrutiny for his contacts with Russians during the transition as part of the widening probes into whether Trump’s team co-ordinated with Moscow during the election. Kushner has denied any improper contacts with Russia.