Trump to Kushner: If You Can't Produce Middle East Peace, Nobody Can

At VIP dinner on the eve of his inauguration, Trump has warm words for son-in-law and soon-to-be senior adviser. 'Ivanka married well,' he declares to crowd of donors at Washington's Union Station.

Ivanka Trump her husband Jared Kushner arrive at the Lincoln Memorial a day before Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2017.
MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

WASHINGTON D.C. - On the eve of his presidential inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump addressed a dinner of top campaign donors and senior Washington politicians, and said that he was "very proud" of his cabinet picks.

"There isn't a pick that I don't love," he told the crowd at Washington's Union Station. According to USA Today, tickets were distributed to donors who gave more than 1 million dollars to Trump's inauguration committee.

During his speech, Trump thanked members of his family who were in the crowd, including his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. "Ivanka married well," Trump declared, referring to his daughter who is married to Kushner. During the weekend, Trump confirmed in an interview with the Times of London that Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, will be used by his administration to try and broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. "If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can," he told Kushner at the Union Station event. 

Kushner's appointment could face legal difficulties, since anti-nepotism laws in the U.S. specifically forbid government officials to promote or appoint their own sons-in-law within the government agencies they work for. Kushner is considered one of the closest people to the president-elect and played a major role in his election victory. 

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania take the stage with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife Karen at a pre-inauguration dinner at Union Station in Washington, U.S. January 19, 2017.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Earlier on Thursday, Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, told a press conference that an announcement on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is "coming soon" and encouraged the journalists to "stay tuned" regarding this issue.

Spicer didn't provide more details, but his statement is in line with what Trump told Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom. In an interview published Thursday morning, Trump told the Sheldon Adelson-owned paper that he "hasn't forgotten" his campaign pledge to move the embassy. 

Spicer also said that a number of top policy advisers who worked under the Obama administration on issues related to the Middle East will remain in office for some time after Trump takes charge. He specifically mentioned veteran diplomat Brett McGurk, who was appointed by Obama as the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, and the Acting Under Secretary of the Treasury Adam Szubin, who deals with terrorism funding and financial intelligence.

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Also on Thursday, the Trump transition team announced close to 20 new appointments that will become official on Friday afternoon, once Trump enters the White House.  One of those appointments was Avi Berkowitz, a 27 year-old Harvard Law School graduate, who will be Kushner's assistant in the White House. Berkowitz was involved in the Trump campaign's social media activities during the election. It's not clear if his work with Kushner will be devoted specifically to the Middle East. 

The Trump team also announced that Boris Epstheyn, a Republican political consultant, will join the White House as a special assistant to the president, and will deal mostly with media surrogates. Epshteyn, a personal friend of Trump's son Eric from their days in Georgetown University, gave dozens of interviews in support of Trump during the campaign. A New York Times profile of him ran under the headline: "The Obscure Lawyer Who Became Donald Trump’s TV Attack Dog."