USA Politics First Look

White House office led by Trump's son-in-law to bring business ideas to government

President Trump is set to announce a new White House office run by Jared Kushner that will seek to introduce ideas from the private sector to government.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner (r.) listens to President Trump speak during a breakfast with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 23, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/File
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Ever since his campaign, President Trump has promised to bring the best ideas from the business world to Washington to change the federal bureaucracy.

Now, he is entrusting Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and one of his closest confidantes, to make that happen.

Mr. Trump is expected to announce on Monday the creation of the White House Office of American Innovation to overhaul government functions using ideas from the business sector. The office will be led by Mr. Kushner, already a senior adviser to Trump, and will report directly to the president.

If the office achieves what it aims to do, it will represent a shift away from business as usual in the capital: It seeks to reform federal bureaucracy by harvesting and potentially privatizing some government functions, The Washington Post first reported on Sunday.

“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner told the Post in an interview in his West Wing office that day. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

The group, which has already hosted sessions with more than 100 chief executives and other leaders from various sectors, will focus its attention on technology and data. Some of its first tasks will include reexamining the Department of Veterans Affairs, modernizing the technology and data infrastructure of every federal department and agency, remodeling workforce-training programs, and developing “transformative projects” as part of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, such as providing broadband internet service to every American, according to the Post.

The group will also target opioid addiction, leaning on New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie to chair an official drug commission to combat the epidemic. Trump is expected to officially announce the formation of this committee later this week.

In addition to the Kushner, the office will also be staffed by a handful of people who hail mostly from the business world. They include Dina Powell, senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security adviser; Gary Cohn, national economic council director; Chris Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives; Andrew Bremberg, director of the Domestic Policy Council; and Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives, Kushner told the Post.

Two members – Ms. Powell and Mr. Bremberg – worked in former President George W. Bush's administration, but the rest have no political experience.

While team members have been laying the groundwork for the office since shortly after the inauguration, its formal announcement will come on the heels of Trump’s first major legislative defeat. Republicans withdrew their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act late last week, after they lacked enough votes to get it through the House.

The announcement will also come less than a week after it was announced that Trump’s daughter Ivanka will be given an office in the West Wing along with access to classified information. Ms. Trump, who is married to Kushner, has no formal title in the administration but has arranged meetings on workforce development with foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Kushner, one of Trump’s closest confidantes, has his hands full in the administration, as the president relies on the former real estate and media executive for foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel, according to the Post. He is also the president’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada, and the Middle East.

Kushner will also be part of a Senate inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, The New York Times reported hours ahead of the announcement of the White House Office of American Innovation. The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, wants to question Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Members of presidential transition teams routinely meet with foreign officials, but Mr. Kislyak had several controversial meetings with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who stepped down from this role after admitting that he wasn’t candid with the president and his staff about those meetings.  

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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