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Kathleen Parker: Family politics can be challenging

WASHINGTON—The great thing about hiring family members: You can usually trust them more than others.

The really awful thing about hiring family members: You can't fire them. Unless, of course, you're Michael Corleone. Poor Fredo.

It's no mere coincidence that "The Godfather" comes to mind when considering the nation's first family and challenges therein. President Trump, like Vito Corleone, has surrounded himself with family members, especially daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, and for essentially the same reasons.

If you're Donald Trump, whom can you really trust?

When you're a real estate mogul from Queens and Manhattan, with enough questionable paper to keep a cadre of lawyers in chauffeurs for life, you need the blood that binds as your innermost circle.

Hence, Ivanka and Jared, the latter of whom turns out to be the latest person of interest in the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign.

Thus far, it's been reported that Kushner sought a back channel of communication with Russia, which isn't unusual in itself, though generally the president would work through the State Department or U.S. intelligence agencies.

Kushner, who, despite rumors to the contrary, is actually not the president, supposedly discussed the back channel with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. This meeting reportedly took place at Trump Tower in early December last year, which means that Donald Trump wasn't actually the president either.

Thus, Kushner was acting as a private citizen. Stranger still, Kushner and Kislyak apparently discussed using Russian diplomatic facilities so that even our own intelligence agencies would remain in the dark. Might we remind dear readers that U.S. intelligence agencies are the ones on our team? Russian operatives, decidedly, are not.

What was so "sensitive" that Kushner would need a private line to the Kremlin? Surely there's a reasonable explanation; I just can't think of one. The idea that Kushner is that naive is naive in itself. Besides, we've also now learned that former/ousted national security advisor Michael Flynn was also present in the meeting. Wouldn't a three-star general have enough experience to know better—unless he endorsed the idea for purposes that remain unclear?

Another Kushner meeting—with a Russian banker and close friend of Putin—has also raised flags. Meanwhile, millions are wondering: Who is that masked man, Jared Kushner—or "the air," as Steve Bannon reportedly refers to him because of his way of breezing in and out of meetings? And what are Kushner's qualifications for negotiating with our greatest geopolitical foe?

Often called the shadow secretary of state, Kushner has been a shadow in nearly every way. This is to say, we know little about him other than that he seems savvy in the ways of the paparazzi. In photos, he cuts a rather James-Bondian figure—invariably looking slightly askance, somewhat bemused and ever-knowing.

He seems determined to remain an enigma even as he appears to be in charge of everything from the Nile to the Volga. Not only does he have security clearance but he also receives his own private security briefings each morning.

There's no question the young man is bright, maybe brilliant, though he did manage to buy the nation's most expensive building just before the 2008 recession hit. On balance, he took over his family's real estate business when he was just 25 and reportedly has been able to recoup most of the $500 million invested in the building, which plummeted to half its value during the financial crisis.

In my shallow moments, I confess to the guilty pleasure of watching Jared and Ivanka as one would Prince William and Duchess Kate. But then I remind myself that the U.S. is not currently a monarchy, though this might be preferable to, say, a thugocracy. Or worse.

At the center of the storm, always, is Trump and the many still-unanswered questions about his and his aides' relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and possible collusion during the 2016 campaign. Pertinent to those concerns, why all the secrecy? You don't have to be a paranoid conspiracy theorist to be justifiably skeptical if not suspicious.

Kushner surely deserves a chance to explain his actions before he's indicted in the public square. Reportedly, he's angry and eager to defend his reputation, but it may not be his that's most at risk. As a senior adviser to the president, he has become a liability without family blood to protect him.

With Trump, as with the Corleones, loyalty is all. Without blood to bind him, what's to prevent Kushner getting the boot? Under the circumstances, he might welcome an exit ramp, but he'd best steer clear of boat ramps.

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