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Kushner on ‘historic’ Middle East agreement, Trump’s pandemic response

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Trump as well as his son-in-law, played an instrumental role in negotiating the normalization of Israel’s relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. What does it mean for the Middle East more broadly? Kushner joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the deal, the pandemic and climate change.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to Jared Kushner. He's a senior adviser to President Trump. He played a key role in negotiating this deal. And he joins us now from the White House.

    Jared Kushner, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for joining us.

    Let me ask you about the deal. It's always good to sign a peace agreement, but this is a case of countries that were — already had unofficial relations. They had trade relations, diplomatic relations with one another. What exactly is going to change, be different?

  • Jared Kushner:

    Well, first of all, Judy, it's great to be with you.

    But they did not have trade relations or diplomat relations. Actually, just two weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates waived a boycott provision that they had that was ongoing for 48 years of Israel. And Saudi Arabia just opened their airspace to allow the first commercial ever to fly from Israel to United Arab Emirates. I was on that flight.

    People who understand the region and know the history know the significance of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the boundary that was just broken with these two peace deals.

    Israel, in its 72 years, has had two peace deals. And then, just in the last 29 days, it's had two more peace deals, thanks to President Trump's untraditional style and brokerage to try to create different prospects for the Middle East.

    So, what we celebrated was truly a historic breakthrough. And I think what it does is, it shows the positive momentum that people in the region have towards wanting to articulate a new future and not be held back by conflicts of the past, so that people of all faiths, the younger generation, wants to be able to have a life where they could have economic opportunity, and really just not be bogged down by the wars that have held back the Middle East for the last 20-plus years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I was referring to unofficial relations between these countries. They had never fought a war with one another.

    But speaking of economic opportunity, left out of this deal are the Palestinians, more than five million people living in the crowded territories, with very little economic opportunity for them, a chance to advance hopes for their children.

    Is the plan here to try to isolate the Palestinians, so then they have to come on board?

  • Jared Kushner:

    No, the Palestinians have isolated themselves.

    Our plan has been to do practical things to slaughter the sacred cows that have held back progress for a long time and just to take a very pragmatic approach to bring things forward.

    President Trump, on his first foreign trip — I don't know if your viewers know — he laid out his strategy when he went to Riyadh and he spoke to the 54 Muslim and Arab countries, the leaders of them, and basically said, if we want to move forward, we need to bring the region together around common interests. I need you all to take more responsibility.

    At the time, ISIS was running rampant. They had a caliphate the size of Ohio. Iran was destabilizing by funding proxies all over the region. And there was a lot of bad things happening the Middle East in terms of funding of terror and radicalizing the next generation.

    We reversed a lot of that. We have destroyed the territorial caliphate of ISIS. We got out of the horrible Iran deal, which probably was one of the worst deals ever made. And we have stopped a lot of the funding that's gone to the terror groups that were threatening America and destabilizing the region.

    With regards to the Palestinians, we got Israel to put on the table the most detailed proposal that's ever been put forward in history. We put out 180 pages. It had an economic plan that took $50 billion that would have created a million new Palestinian jobs, double their GDP, and reduce their poverty rate by 50 percent.

    And that would have made a big difference. We also got Israel to agree to a Palestinian state and to put forward a map. So, there's been a lot of progress that's been made for them.

    But, at the end of the day, we can't want peace more than they want peace. And, again, their leadership has a perfect track record of not making a deal. So, when they're ready to come forward, President Trump has shown that he can make deals in the Middle East, that he's built strong relations with people who felt isolated from America before he came into power.

    And I think that there's a tremendous amount of potential for the Palestinians if we all work together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, as we know, at this point, they oppose this deal. They have said they — that it feels like, to them, a betrayal.

    Jared Kushner, there's so much to ask you about.

    I do want to ask you about the coronavirus, the pandemic.

    You and the president have, in essence, suggested the president's done a masterful job. But, as all of us know, 195,000 Americans have died. As of last Friday, there were 1,000 people a day dying in this country.

    How is that a masterful job?

  • Jared Kushner:

    So, first of all, to go back to the last thing you said before we got to the virus, in negotiations, everyone's at no until they're at yes.

    And I think that what you're seeing is a lot of posturing in the region. And, again, President Trump has taken on a challenge in the Middle East that very few people were willing to take on. And that's resulted in us having the ability to pull troops home, have less threat of terror in our country, and spend less money in the Middle East and more money here at home rebuilding our country.

    And so that's what the significance of today's event at the White House was.

    With regards to the coronavirus, obviously, this is an unprecedented pandemic. It's impacted, I guess, 180 countries around the world. President Trump jumped into action very early on. We got all the governors the supplies they needed.

    You heard a lot of hysteria up front that states would need 40,000 ventilators, that we were going to be short of supplies on the front lines of the hospitals. And we worked very hard to make sure that we secured all the resources we need. We allocate them smartly. We worked with all the governors, and we got everyone what they needed to deal with this effectively.

    We have learned a lot. And we have also been able to save the economy. People thought that our economy would be over 20 percent unemployment at this point. We have gotten down to 8.4 percent, which, again, nobody thought would be possible until maybe the middle, the end of next year.

    So, the economy is coming back well. We have developed a vaccine and therapeutics. A vaccine — we have three vaccines right now in phase four trials. The fastest vaccine ever through a phase three trial was 13 months. We have done two of them in four months and one in five months. And those hopefully will prove efficacy, and we can go.

    With regards to testing, we lead the world in testing. We have over 100 million tests performed…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, again — but I was just going to say, if you could let me interrupt, because I do want to ask you about other things.

    Just quickly, the death rate in this country is one of the worst in the world, something like 10th out of 172 countries.

    My question is, is that a record the president is proud of?

  • Jared Kushner:

    Look, the president stepped up to the challenge.

    Obviously, one death is too many. And we would have loved to have not had the pandemic come. But this is a global pandemic. And it's hit every — every — every country differently.

    If you look at Europe, and you look at our excess mortality, they have had a higher excess mortality because of the pandemic than what we have had, because, here in America — but, again, we have some states that have done better than others.

    We have worked with the governors, and we have done our best to try to make sure that we get everyone the resources they need, which is the job of the federal government.

    So, again, I think that we have — we have — we have taken — you talked about the death rate. I think, right now, we're down to about…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well…

  • Jared Kushner:

    … 740 people a day. That was at 2,200 at the peak a couple months ago.

    Again, one death is too many, but we're doing our best to make sure that we can identify cases. We have done a lot to get — to get tests and supplies to the nursing homes, because that's how we have driven the death rate down by really trying to secure the nursing homes, which is something that was not done by governors in the early states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I would just say that the record for most European countries is far better than that of the United States, certainly in Germany and other countries.

    But I do want to ask you about the election. The president has said…

  • Jared Kushner:

    But, again, we have some states that are doing better than other states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In some…

  • Jared Kushner:

    And, again, like, you could compare Florida to New York. And, again, you have to look at us comparatively in terms of how that all works.

    So, again, it's — it's — it's not constructive at this point, I believe, in a global pandemic to be cherry-picking data to try to fight back. I think we have to look at the efforts that have been made. We have responded to a lot of challenges.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm…

  • Jared Kushner:

    Go ahead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I'm looking at the data that everyone looks at. I'm not cherry-picking.

    But, very quickly, the president has said on occasion in the past that he'd have to see if he accepted the results of the election.

    As we know there's an official the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, who in the last few days — he's very close to the president — said that the American people should be prepared to take up arms if President Trump loses.

    Do you and the president share the view that — this gray view that, if the president loses, people should take up arms?

  • Jared Kushner:

    Right. So, I believe he's apologized for those comments. I just saw that on the news coming in.

    But, look, in the last election, the president was asked if he would accept the results. And the other side ridiculed him for saying that he'd have to see. And then he accepted the results when it was done, and the other side didn't, then spent years creating this false Russian hoax that they basically were saying that we colluded with Russian in the election.

    And that was investigated for two years and was totally disproven.

    At the end of the day, the American people are going to look at the track record of the president. And, at the end — and he delivers results. Again, today, we're on here talking about a historic Middle East peace deal.

    For three-and-a-half years, I have been ridiculed by the media and by all the experts in Washington, who said we are doing it the wrong way, we weren't the right people to be doing it. But we then achieved today what those experts didn't do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Jared Kushner:

    And so President Trump has taken unconventional approaches to a lot of things, but he achieves results. And the people who voted for him know exactly what they were getting. And they couldn't be more thrilled.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • Jared Kushner:

    And what I would say to the people who didn't vote for him, a lot of the people who — who were — who are saying the same things now are the people who were basically saying that, if President Trump was elected, we'd have World War III.

    And, again, today, we signed two peace deals in the Middle East.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, and we are — and we are reporting on that.

    Just one last question about science, Mr. Kushner.

    The president was urged in his visit to California yesterday by a group of scientists to pay close attention to climate change. His reaction was, it's getting colder and science doesn't know, in effect, rebuking the scientists.

    My question to you is, is this what you — the kind of thing you want your own children to learn in school, that the president knows more than the scientists?

  • Jared Kushner:

    Look, I think that you often have scientists that contradict each other. And you look at what that is.

    The president is open-minded to different things.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But not anymore on climate change. There's an overwhelming view about climate change.

  • Jared Kushner:

    Yes, but what I would say is that we all agree that there's — that we want to have clean air and clean water.

    The president said that. But then you have different things to do. We brought the president an idea earlier this year to join the Trillion Trees challenge. And he said, absolutely, he thought that could sequester carbon and thought that would be a very productive way that wouldn't destroy our economy.

    So, I think that, when we talk about pro-climate change or anti-climate change, I think that that becomes divisive. I think that what we have to do is put our effort towards solutions. What are we going to be doing to make sure that we can optimize for the right calibration between making sure that we have clean air and clean water, which the president supports, but also not doing radical things that will destroy our industry and make us less globally competitive?

    You looked at the last administration, they did the Paris climate deal, which basically had huge restrictions on American business, while it had no restrictions on China and Russia and a lot of the worst polluters in the world. So it basically whitewashed…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you agree that — you agree with the president that science doesn't know when it comes to something like this?

  • Jared Kushner:

    Look, the president will speak for himself.

    I work for the president. My job is that, when he gives me a task to try to work on, I try to come with the most constructive ways to do it. We look at the data here in the White House.

    But what I will tell you is, the president's a very open-minded person. One thing I brought him early on is, I brought him prison reform and criminal justice reform. The president, being a businessman, had no experience with that topic.

    But when I showed him that people leaving prison were more apt to commit crimes because they didn't have the training and didn't have the family structures, and now they had a criminal record, he says, let's do it. Let's fix it.

    And we passed landmark criminal justice reform that Washington couldn't get done for decades.

    And so President Trump is a pragmatist. He's open-minded. If you show him data on things, and you show him constructive solutions, we can do it.

    But I just think that we all agree we want clean air and clean water. President Trump's been very clear on that. But, at the end of the day, if you come with instructive solutions for him as to how to — as to how to do it, he gets things done. And he will be very happy to engage to push things forward.

    Nobody likes the forest fires that we're seeing. And I think it would be great if we can make sure that we're working together to prevent them in the future.

    And in the short term, our focus is on providing aid to California and making sure that we're helping them do everything to make sure we can preserve life and keep — and keep the area as safe as possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We're going to have to leave it there.

    But, Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Trump, thank you very much for joining us.

  • Jared Kushner:

    Thank you, Judy. Good to be with you.

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