Great Britain

Jared Kushner appeared ignorant of what Nato actually does, book claims

Though Jared Kushner was a “lead point of contact” for US allies worried about Donald Trump’s threats to Nato, the president’s son-in-law did not “seem to know what Nato actually did”, a new book claims.

Kushner even appeared to be ignorant of article 5, the treaty clause which stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

The claim is contained in Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump’s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington, by Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, two reporters for the Daily Beast. The Guardian obtained a copy of the book, which has been excerpted elsewhere and will be published on 11 February.

Markay and Suebsaeng write that Kushner’s ignorance of the founding principles of Nato was exposed in May 2017, as Trump was about to travel to Nato headquarters in Brussels to address allies worried by his attacks on the organization and claims that other countries were not paying their way.

In the days before the trip, the authors write, Kushner convened a background briefing at the White House with journalists from mainstream media outlets – not including the Beast.

As the president’s senior adviser “went deeper and deeper into discussing the intricacies of Nato and what his father-in-law’s administration meant” for it, they write, “senior officials in the room started wondering what the hell … [he] was talking about”.

“It was a word salad reminiscent of the president’s own rambling when it came to issues and minutiae with which he couldn’t be bothered.”

Markay and Suebsaeng report that the then National Security Council spokesman, Michael Anton, followed Kushner out of the room and “respectfully asked” about his “muddled” presentation to the journalists, bringing up article 5.

“Oh, article 5,” the authors say Kushner replied. “What’s that again?”

Markay and Suebsaeng’s picture of White House dysfunction under Trump and senior advisers such as Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump is familiar from everyday reporting and a number of bestselling books.

In the trip following the scene reported in Sinking in the Swamp, Trump duly used his official remarks in Brussels to harangue Nato leaders.

“I have been very, very direct with Secretary [Jens] Stoltenberg and members of the alliance,” he said, “in saying that Nato members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.”

In December, before a summit in London to mark Nato’s 70th anniversary, the US announced it was cutting its own contribution to joint Nato projects to an equivalence of that of Germany.

Trump has claimed credit for increased spending by Nato allies. Experts counter that the increase in member nations contributing at least 2% of GDP to defence spending was planned, as a response to Russian aggression.

Trump cut his attendance at the London summit short, after other leaders were recorded apparently mocking him.

According to NBC News, a month before that the former national security adviser John Bolton warned a private audience Trump could “go full isolationist” if he wins re-election this year.

In December, speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, one European diplomat said: “The greatest fear is what he would do in a second term. He would be more free from constraints. It is impossible to predict.”

In January, the New York Times reported that Trump has privately said he would like to withdraw the US from Nato altogether, a move Congress has sought to preclude.