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There is a sense in the White House that Jared Kushner is "vulnerable"

Jared Kushner under more scrutiny
Jared Kushner under more scrutiny 02:50

There is a sense in the White House that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is "vulnerable" for the first time, and that rivals within the White House are taking shots at him because of the "tough" or "hard" stories about him in recent days, CBS News' Major Garrett reports. This comes as the president, who is considering a change in communications strategy, met with two top former campaign staffers, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

The New York Times reported about a week and a half ago that Kushner, one of the top aides who had pushed for FBI Director James Comey's firing, was also one of the voices "urging the president to counterattack" after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named a special counsel to take over the government's Russia investigation. It was not advice that Mr. Trump took.

Soon after, came a Washington Post report that Kushner -- during a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December -- discussed setting up a "back channel" for communications between the Trump transition team and Russian officials. CBS News has confirmed that, according to a source familiar with the intelligence gathered at the time, Kushner discussed setting up the back channel.

Susan Page on Jared Kushner 03:23

As the Post first reported, communications were intercepted between Kislyak and Moscow describing Kislyak's conversation with Kushner.

The sense among Kushner's allies, Garrett reports, is that Mr. Trump considers the best part of his first trip abroad the three parts that Kushner structured: the visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome. That work is valued by the president most of all, according to White House officials.

Further, as the White House continues to ponder changes to its communications strategy, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie met with Mr. Trump and senior White House staff on Monday.

According to those familiar with the encounter, the two also met with Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Counselor Kellyanne Conway. 

No decisions have been made about bringing the two on board but both are being considered as key participants in a war room operation to deal with all stories and revelations tied to the congressional and FBI investigations. As CBS News previously reported, Bossie is being seriously considered for a West Wing post while Lewandowski would position himself as an outside defender of the president and key strategist.

White House officials acknowledge the conversations about communications changes have been‎ underway for days but have yet to reach a conclusion. No decisions were reached Sunday, according to those familiar with the process.

As for Steve Bannon, in the zero sum game of West Wing politics, anything that makes Kushner vulnerable helps Bannon (and, significantly, Bannon's protégé, Stephen Miller, who wrote Mr. Trump's big speeches for his foreign trip. Miller and Bannon share the credit for their policy direction). 

Kushner has functioned as a direct line to the president, and Mr. Trump has tasked him with handling some of the most sensitive issues he wants to fast-track, CBS News' Margaret Brennan points out. 

When top Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn rhapsodized on the last day of the trip about the deals struck in Saudi Arabia, he was extolling Kushner's clout and telegraphing what the president cares about most: deals that sound like jobs (though it cannot yet be said how many net jobs there will be during the life of the contract).

Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, on Sunday praised Mr. Trump's first foreign trip as president as a success, calling it "near perfection" and said he was "encouraged by the level of engagement between this White House and Congress on foreign policy matters."

But some in Congress object to the Saudi war in Yemen and they've expressed dismay that human rights concerns went unaddressed, Brennan notes. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, along with Democratic Senators Democrats Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Al Franken of Minnesota, introduced a resolution Thursday to oppose the deal (the three also introduced a resolution to oppose an Obama Saudi arms deal last year).

"Given Saudi Arabia's past support of terror, poor human rights record, and questionable tactics in its war in Yemen, Congress must carefully consider and thoroughly debate if selling them billions of dollars of arms is in our best national security interest at this time," Paul said in a statement.

There was no debate about whether the U.S. would be legally liable or vulnerable to criticism over atrocities committed in Yemen using U.S. weapons. The Obama administration, on the other hand, was pained over the Yemen attacks.

An administration official, however, says that human rights concerns were addressed and added that "the president believes he will get better results from one-on-one meetings with leaders and not by lecturing them in public."

CBS News' Andres Triay contributed to this report

Editor's note: The original story said that the meeting between Mr. Trump, Corey Lewandowski, David Bossie and his top aides took place on Sunday. The meeting was on Monday.

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