Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, hasn’t solved peace in the Middle East yet.
Any tangible progress on his lofty goal of modernizing the federal government has been too slow to register.
Saddled with intractable, long-term problems to fix at home and abroad — as well as a draining off-again, on-again relationship with his security clearance — the president’s son-in-law has struggled, in his life as a senior White House official, to demonstrate his own concrete accomplishments.
That’s what made Wednesday morning a little sunnier than most of the days spent working in the West Wing.
Kushner has been telling associates he is thrilled about the U.S. winning its joint bid with Canada and Mexico to host the World Cup in 2026 — in part because he sees it as a legitimate diplomatic win that he can claim some credit for. “He’s very pumped,” said one person familiar with his . “First time I’ve heard him genuinely happy in over a year.”
Indeed, Team Jared was quick to point to the World Cup as a victory for the son-in-law, who’s built strong relationships with many of the major players in the Middle East who in turn cast votes for the winning bid — as well as with partners Canada and Mexico.
If Kushner did indeed play a major role in winning the co-hosting rights for the World Cup, it was never advertised during the process — or after — by anyone outside of the White House. In fact, with President Donald Trump openly feuding with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since last weekend’s G-7 summit and permanently at odds with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, there appeared to be an active effort to minimize any White House involvement.
It was not a given that the U.S. would win the bid over Morocco, amid the international anti-Trump backlash. Indeed, Trump’s decision to publicly threaten countries that did not support the bid triggered concerns that he was actively damaging its chances. “The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup,” Trump tweeted on April 26. “It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?”
Moncef Belkhayat, a member of Morocco’s 2026 bid committee, said during an interview with CNN earlier this month, “I think the Donald Trump factor is helping Morocco.”
The president acting as a net negative on a bid stood in stark contrast to how the last administration operated in trying to win the hosting rights to an international sports event.
In 2009, President Barack Obama personally made the closing sales pitch for Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. He flew to Copenhagen to unveil the final presentation — and then suffered the embarrassment of ultimately losing the bid.
The U.S. Soccer Federation, in contrast, gave Trump no starring role or imprimatur on its campaign. But Kushner, White House officials said, was conducting his version of soft power diplomacy behind the scenes — or at the very least he was making some productive phone calls to his friends in the Middle East. Over the past year, he has reached out to the Saudis and the Bahrainis to ask them for their support against Morocco.
Kushner has also hosted the U.S. Soccer Federation at the White House numerous times to discuss strategy, a White House official said. John Kristick, executive director of the United Bid Committee for Canada, Mexico and the United States, met with Kushner at the White House multiple times, the official said.
Kristick did not respond to emails requesting an interview to discuss Kushner’s role in the process.
“President Trump directed a team, led by Jared Kushner, to help secure America’s place in history serving as a host along with Canada and Mexico,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said.
For months, Kushner has been keeping his head down, amid an ongoing federal investigation into his family real estate company. Associates said he was taken by surprise by the loss of his security clearance last February. But those same confidants said he is newly emboldened after having it restored last month — and that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have no current plans to leave the White House.
He took a rare speaking role at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and is trying to forge ahead on prison reform.
Even so, Kushner is fighting out of a negative press hole. Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s financial disclosure forms, released earlier this week, revealed that they pocketed at least $82 million in outside income in 2017, while serving in senior White House roles.
And a new book out next week, “Born Trump,” by Vanity Fair scribe Emily Jane Fox, which is being teased as a “dishy, deeply reported, and richly detailed look” at the Trump children and Kushner, has the family on high-alert for a stream of unflattering news cycles.
That all made the World Cup moment one that Kushner’s team was eager to bask in.
“We had given our word to the Americans,” Turki Al Alshikh, head of the Saudi Sports Authority, told Bloomberg TV earlier this month, a reference that was viewed internally as a nod to his country’s discussions with Kushner. “We balance issues, and in the end, we go with the interests of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”