CNN 'Amanpour': Jared Kushner Asked About 'Birther' Attack On Kamala Harris

14 August, 2020

In an interview today, CNN's Christiane Amanpour asked Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, about recent birtherism attack on presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and whether he would apologize on behalf of the President for spreading misinformation.  In addition, Amanpour discussed the Israel, UAE peace deal and former President Obama’s criticism of Trump's handling of the US Postal Service and mail-in voting plans.

Here is the full transcript of the interview, courtesy of CNN:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST:  Jared Kushner, welcome to the program.  

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you. It’s good to be with you.  

AMANPOUR:  So look, 24 hours after the announcement of this landmark peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. I just want to ask specifically what precisely your administration did.

I mean, you know, obviously better than I do, that this has been in the works for at least the last 10 years between the parties and with the help of previous U.S. administrations.

Can you tell us how and why it happened now? 

KUSHNER:  Sure. Well first of all, I saw people saying that – that previous administrations should be taking credit for it. That’s like saying that the administration that put in place the tough crime legislation that caused a lot of people to go to jail should be taking credit for the fact that we did criminal justice reform beforehand.  

What happened over the last three years is President Trump came into office. The Middle East was a total mess. ISIS was running wild. They had a caliphate the size of Ohio.

Iran was emboldened by the previous administration; they’d given $150 billion to Iran and a pathway to a nuclear warhead. Iran was using their newly found money to fund all their proxies that were causing instability throughout the region.

President Trump came in and said we have to do something about it. We have to take a different approach. This uncertainty that was created in the region caused people to look at things differently. So I would say that it was a very, very different environment. 

The first thing President Trump did was he went to Riyadh in 2017. He assembled the leaders of the 54 Muslim countries and said, guys, we need to be thinking about things differently -- we need to solve these problems together, and we need to bring the region together around common solutions and in a new way.  

Since then, we’ve seen a lot of changes. We’ve seen Israel become closer with the Arab countries. We’ve rolled back a lot of Iran’s aggression in the region, terminated the really flawed Iran deal.

We’ve taken back the physical caliphate of ISIS, and we’ve done a lot of work to counter the financing of terrorism and to fight the long-term battle against extremism through counter extremism centers by fighting the battle online. 

So I think that President Trump was able to build the trust back with all the regional allies that America had and to lay out a strategy, and then we worked very closely together over the last years to execute that strategy culminating in the first peace agreement in the region in the last 26 years.  

So again, there’s a lot of – of problems that we’ve had in the Middle East over time, but very few politicians and leaders have been able to create the breakthrough that President Trump was able to get yesterday. 

AMANPOUR:  So obviously, this is progress in the region, and specifically on an issue that you and I spoke about when you unveiled the Trump administration peace plan for the region.

You remember one of the first questions I asked you was, will Prime Minister Netanyahu be annexing the West Bank as was provided for, and you – because he has said that – and you said, no, we don’t expect that, that shouldn’t happen.

It’s no secret that you did not want that to happen. Is one of the side benefits or the side benefit of this deal, the announcement that that annexation will be suspended by Israel? 

KUSHNER:  So politics are messy, and in the Middle East, if there was elegant solution to solve all of these problems they would have been solved a long time ago. And so you have a lot of different parties that believe in a lot of different things.  

But ultimately what happened here was that leaders came together – great leaders like Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and President Trump -- and they were able to put what are the interests of the people, the region, and the world ahead of different, maybe things that would have been good in the short-term, but less helpful in the long-term.  

So that’s why we’re able to get to this normalization of peace, which will facilitate great trade between United Arab Emirates and Israel, that will facilitate exchanges in technology, healthcare, tourism.  

A lot of Muslims throughout the world don’t believe that they’re able to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque because their countries don’t have diplomatic relations and they can’t fly into Tel Aviv and then go visit the mosque.  

Now Muslims throughout the world can fly through Dubai and Abu Dhabi to go to Tel Aviv, and they can pray at the mosque. And that will help fight against the notion that extremists put out there, that says that people are not allowed to pray at the mosque, and that the mosque is under attack. And that’s a trope that’s been used for over 100 years.  

So in the short-term, Israel has agreed to focus their attention on strengthening their relationship with regional partners to improve the security and economic opportunities that exist.

Then for the time being, they’ve suspended any efforts to apply Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank. 

AMANPOUR:  So I just wanted – you know, you say for the time being and suspended – I assume Arab nations don’t want that to happen, and some of them say this deal was kind of a victory for us, because we managed to get that off the table.

My question to you is, is annexation off the table? Because yesterday Prime Minister Netanyahu said, there’s no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria in full coordination with the United States, using those biblical words for the West Bank. I mean, is it off the table, or is it just for the moment?  

KUSHNER:  Right. So one of the tough things about your jobs is, you have to look at the snapshot everyday. You know, President Trump is a dealmaker, he’s a pragmatist, he’s somebody who’s quite flexible. And what we’ve seen in the Middle East is that things are very fluid, and they change.

And again, we knew where we wanted to get to and we’ve done a lot of different moves that have been unconventional to get to this point, and quite frankly, I personally have been criticized by a lot of the experts who worked on this and failed in the past for not doing it the same way that they did.

But where we are today is, we have created an environment where we unveiled a 180 page vision for peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people. 

We have shown -- we’ve earned the trust of the Israeli people, we’ve put out a plan to secure Israel from a security point of view, we’ve put out an economic plan that can double the GDP for the Palestinian people, create a million new jobs and allow them to improve their way of life.  

The map in -- between Israel and the Palestinians now is something that’s existed for a long time. President Trump was in the real estate business before. He knows metes and bounds very well. We looked at it very carefully.

And there are certain realities that have existed after three wars and many years of failed political leadership trying to make a deal that we just took and tried to work accordingly with.  

So President Trump was able to get Israel to agree to a Palestinian state and also to agree to a map. And the reality with the map, the areas in the West Bank right now is, it’s populated by Israelis. Israel is controlling the territory and they’re not leaving.

And so the notion here is, how do we save the possibility for the Palestinians to have a state of their own, have the ability for economic prosperity, to have dignity in a future? And we’ve really outlined that 

So what this does today is it takes one of the major pillars of what’s caused this conflict and the instability in the region really off the table, because what you’re doing now is you’re taking the mosque issue which, quite frankly, conflated the dispute between the Muslim world and Israel over all these years, and you really diminish that, because now Muslims throughout the world feel like they can go and visit the mosque, and they can.  

Israel in our vision –

AMANPOUR:  OK.

KUSHNER:  -- for peace agreed that the King of Jordan was able to stay as the custodian of the mosque.

And again, so the religious issue that’s caused all this tension over the years should now be resolved. And now there’s a real estate proposal on the table from Israel to the Palestinians, and it’s really up to their leadership when they want to engage, and if they do, we’re there to help them, and we want them to see – have a great future, and we’ve got a good plan to help that happen.  

AMANPOUR:  OK.

Let me ask you a couple of questions about what’s happening in the news around the White House, around the election right now.

So the president obviously has raised a lot of eyebrows by commenting and seeming to agree, and certainly spread, this notion that has been perpetuated in the “Newsweek,” by a conservative lawyer that somehow Kamala Harris is unqualified to run for vice president.  

Why would your father-in-law, your candidate, the president actually do this? What is the point of spreading that kind of disinformation that’s contrary to the United States Constitution?  

KUSHNER:  Look, right now, you’re the one spreading that disinformation.

The president was at a coronavirus briefing, he was asked by a reporter about a report in “Newsweek,” and his words were, I don’t know anything about that.

And since then, the media’s been going wild, basically saying that he was pushing a theory. I’ll take him at his word that he said he doesn’t know anything about that, and that’s what he said.  

But again, I’m here today to talk about the historic peace agreement -- 

AMANPOUR:  I know.  

KUSHNER:  -- that President Trump just accomplished in the Middle East. And I’m not sure why that’s a topic that’s relevant.  

AMANPOUR:  And I’ll ask you another question. I’ll ask you another question about that.

But we agreed to talk about a couple of issues in the news. Look, he did it before with Barack Obama until finally in 2016 he agreed that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Why would he do it again? It didn’t work then. Why would it work now?  

And I want to ask you this also, you know, Kamala Harris is African-American, she’s Indian-American, and she’s a woman. So you’ve got racist overtones, you’ve got misogynistic overtones. Why would the president want to be associated with somebody who wrote that?  

KUSHNER:  So Christiane, again, I have so much respect for you. So I’ll answer this in the most polite way possible, which again, is that the president was asked the question – he said he didn’t know anything about it. And now that you’re insinuating that this has (ph) something to do with race.

Look, if you look at the president’s track record over the last three years, before the pandemic, we had the lowest black unemployment in the history of our country. The president passed Opportunity Zones to bring much needed access to capital to lower income communities.  

He passed that historic criminal justice reform, which, by the way, again, I – when I was working on that issue -- because, again, there was a lot of (inaudible) disparities that had a disproportionate impact on the black community here in America -- I reached out to Senator Harris’ office for a meeting to see if she’d become part of that solution, and she never returned the phone call.

And I worked with Senator Booker and Senator Durbin across the aisle. It got 87 votes in the Senate and President Trump was able to deliver on something that rolled back very racist laws.  

And so, again, President Trump’s actions have been very consistent with trying to fight for all forgotten Americans. He’s done a great job in that. He has an unimpeachable track record in terms of delivering success.

But for whatever reason, the media likes to chase down rabbit holes and try to create controversies when one shouldn’t exist.  

AMANPOUR:  Jared, you know that we’re not actually doing that. We’re just trying to get an answer, because this went on for years over President Obama. And it just seems completely outside the moment, given what’s happening in your country right now. And it violates the notion that was perpetuated by that op-ed, violates the U.S. Constitution and goes directly against the Fourteenth Amendment.  

Now, let me put it this way. Sometimes I like to use this platform as like a place for a peace offering, or a mea culpa, you know, you’re also a campaign advisor to the president.

Would you apologize on behalf of your candidate for that – for him spreading that information?  

KUSHNER:  Yes, look, the president’s about to do a press conference any minute. I’ll let the CNN reporters ask him about that.

Again, we’ve spent now just as much time on this as we had on the president’s historic peace deal. Again, the first peace deal in the Middle East in the last 26 years. And again, that’s a great accomplishment.  

And again, I’ll go back to the fact that the media often gets distracted and confused by the president, right? They said that if President Trump was elected there would be wars all over the world. He would alienate our allies, and that the world (ph) -- President Trump’s been ending the war in Afghanistan. 

He’s cleaned up ISIS in the Middle East, he’s cleaned up this – and now he has the first peace deal in 26 years. And he’s rebuilt the alliances that the previous administration had alienated.  

And so, again, let’s just focus on what actually impacts the people. I think that this deal will make the Middle East safer. I think for the American people it gives us less necessity to have troops in the region.

Under President Trump’s leadership we’ve become energy independent as a country, which is critical, so we no longer rely on the Middle East for energy.  

And most importantly, the real risk from this conflict that impacts every country is radicalizing youth. And if you look at all the different Jihadists, they use the notion of the Palestinian conflict, and they use the notion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque being under attack as an excuse to try to radicalize youth throughout the world.  

So look, President Trump today accomplished great peace in one of the toughest regions against all odds. Nobody thought that he could do it; nobody thought that I could do it.

And I do believe that President Trump has shown that he can do this internationally, and he’s also going to try to bring people together here at home and bring peace through results, through shared prosperity, and through doing a great job as president, which is what he’s done.  

AMANPOUR:  Jared? Jared Kushner, you know, many would agree with you, that this president has not started any new wars, and that is to the pleasure, obviously, of many, many people.

So I want to ask you this. Do you believe -- because yesterday when he announced this deal, he said, it's big, and big things are happening. He didn’t elaborate.

We've heard from our Israeli sources -- in fact on my show last night -- that there could be other nations following. Do you think Oman will? Do you think Bahrain will? Will Saudi Arabia follow by normalizing relations with Israel?   

KUSHNER:  Sure. Well, I'm not a traditionally trained diplomat, but we were able to keep that deal very, very quiet up until the announcement, which for such big news amongst three countries and a lot of bodies, was a big accomplishment.  

One of the reasons why we've been able to do this is because people trust working with the president, they trust working with me, and that's because, unfortunately for you (ph) and the business here -- and we don’t show more cards than we need to -- but I can assure you that the work that the president has done over the last 3.5 years has really set the table for this success and for a lot more to come.

We've seen a lot of -- again, the move (ph) sometimes, people were -- understood what he was doing, other people didn’t. Tom Friedman wrote a phenomenal column today in “The New York Times” -- and we don’t always agree with Tom Friedman -- saying that this basically was a diplomatic bomb explosion that went off in the Middle East, that now makes everything possible.

And I will tell you this, Christiane, because you’ve been covering this region for a lot of years and have tons of expertise, is that, when I first started working on the Middle East, one of the (inaudible), the expert, said to me that you don’t make money betting on success in the Middle East.  

And the truth of the matter is, is that the people in the region had grown very full of despair. It was very -- when I would go out and say that things could change, everyone called me naive, and they said that I was putting forward an -- too optimistic a vision.  

Well this shows people that change actually is possible. And for the people of the region who feel so hopeless and who feel they just had setback after setback after setback, this shows them that change is possible, there are great leaders in the region.

At the end of the day, people do what to have security, they do want to have prosperity, they want their children to have better jobs than they have and more economic opportunity -- and that should be very hopeful.  

And that -- one other thing I'll just note is that we did call this is Abraham Accords, because Abraham was the father of the three religions, and this agreement is bigger than just bringing two countries together. It's hopefully bridging the relationship between multiple faiths, so that people can focus on the fact that we're all human beings, we all deserve to live a better life.

And that's, again, another accomplishment that President Trump was able to do, to bring people together. 

AMANPOUR:  So we're fortunate to be speaking after you, to the foreign minister of the UAE, so we'll ask him also about how it impacts on the peace proposal or the peace possibility between Israel and the Palestinians.  

Before I go, I just want to -- or you go -- I just want to ask you a question about mail-in balloting. Again, the president has raised a lot of eyebrows by suggesting that there wouldn’t be the financial help for the post office that needs it to be able to process all the mail-in ballots -- and implied that it might just not happen, because he doesn’t want to see it used for mail-in voting.  

So President Obama -- former president, has just weighed in on a podcast with one of his former advisors, David Plouffe, saying, Trump is actively trying to kneecap the Postal Service, says, what we've seen in a way that is unique in modern political history is a president who’s explicit in trying to discourage people from voting.

How do you answer that and will the president support the Postal Service in what they need to get these ballots processed? 

KUSHNER:  First of all, 100 percent. He's doing everything he can to make sure that they have the resources they need.

But you know, you could argue it just the other way, Christiane, which is, this is an unprecedented attempt by people to use an unproven method, that quite frankly, they don’t have the time or the infrastructure to set up correctly.

What you're basically saying is, no, we're relying on the postal system and the federal government to run an unprecedented mass operation in a very efficient way, where there’s a lot of examples of – that it’s ripe (ph) with abuse and fraud.

I think what you’re seeing on both sides is a lot of posturing. You see that from what President Obama said. You’re seeing it from what President Trump has said. But at the end of the day, what everyone wants is just a fair election where we know what the rules are, where people are not playing games and trying to create opportunities, where there’s opportunity for fraud and gamesmanship.  

I think in a fair election President Trump feels that he is in a much better position than he was last time. We’ve got tremendous enthusiasm throughout the country. His record of accomplishment is incredible.

And coming out of the virus – again, we’ve handle the economy quite well through it – definitely better than other countries, but we have a lot of work to do to make sure that we bring all of our factories back from China, which is something the president started doing with his trade deals.  

But that’s going to be a big part of his second – his second term agenda, is bringing our jobs back, rebuilding our economy, and making sure that we have an incredibly strong country for decades to come.

So again, we just want to have a fair election, and that’s what the president’s been talking about.  

AMANPOUR:  Jared Kushner, thank you for joining me.  

KUSHNER:  Thank you very much. Have a great day.  

AMANPOUR:  You, too.  

KUSHNER:  Thank you.