After Rudy Giuliani called Jared Kushner “disposable” in his off-the-rails interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity earlier this week, the president’s son-in-law watched the clip himself to see what all the fuss was about.
Kushner — newly determined to stay in his lane and not meddle in the president’s legal strategy — decided to downplay a comment that raised eyebrows among other White House officials, instead mitigating potential tension with Giuliani by laughing it off.
As long as his wife didn’t call him “disposable,” he joked to people, everything was going just fine.
Less than 48 hours later, it was Giuliani whose “disposable” status was more of a question mark. His position as Trump’s shiny, new penny — confident enough to take an odd shot at a family member on prime-time television — appeared to be in jeopardy on Friday, when the president distanced himself from the newest addition to his legal team in back-to-back gaggles with reporters.
Trump said Giuliani needed more time to “get his facts straight,” on hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, noting that the former New York City Mayor “just started a day ago.”
Giuliani in fact joined the president’s legal team two weeks ago, and had just told NBC News in an interview that “you’re not going to see daylight between the president and me.”
Until Friday, that may have been true. Giuliani had been enjoying a private channel of communication with the president, cutting out staffers and family members as he strategized with Trump directly on how to deal with an ongoing special counsel probe they both believe is a “witch hunt.”
It’s a prime position in the spotlight that the stalwart Trump supporter is enjoying after feeling as though he had been passed over during the transition for his promised post of secretary of state — a fate he still blames, in part, on Kushner.
In private, according to a Republican close to the White House, Giuliani has also blamed the negative view of him in the media, including the whispers about his mental health, on Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
But his mention of the president’s son-in-law, who has been keeping a low profile in recent months, working on prison reform issues, was one of the comments he made on television that had White House aides watching his appearance on Hannity with mouths agape.
“People were really confused by why is he venturing into that territory,” said a senior White House official. “He’s not supposed to be here to run the White House, he’s supposed to be focused on the outside legal team. Staffers were confused as to why Rudy would opine on Jared.”
Some point to Giuliani’s main ally in the White House as an explanation: Giuliani, according to people in the building, has aligned himself with Don McGahn, the White House counsel who has clashed repeatedly with Kushner.
“He’s spent time with him getting indoctrinated,” said a White House official. “Giuliani and McGahn are largely aligned. Rudy’s heard from McGahn that everything would be better without Jared, and he just assumes that’s commonly understood without better understanding the nuance.”
Another nuance of Trumpworld he also failed to grasp was the impossibility of speaking on the president’s behalf.
By Friday afternoon, just before Trump took the stage in Dallas to speak before the National Rifle Association, Giuliani released a statement clarifying his own remarks concerning the $130,000 payment Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels shortly before the 2016 election — trying to walk back his bombshell claim Trump had personally repaid his lawyer.
“My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president’s knowledge,” he said, “but instead, my understanding of these matters.”
And by Friday afternoon, Giuliani was also off television, and back to putting the family first in pre-approved statements. “The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president’s family,” he said. “It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not.”