Earlier this week senior adviser to the President Jared Kushner stopped by Capitol Hill to speak with congressional interns. His speech was coordinated by the House Rules Committee, which hosts speakers from all political and policy backgrounds every summer. This provides us young interns who are just beginning our professional lives the opportunity to hear from public figures who are of considerable prominence, with superb credentials.
Past speakers this summer include Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, multiple senators, generals, and congressmen and women. This summer, I was only able to attend two sessions, one with Representative Mike Gallagher, and this week with Jared Kushner. I attempted to see Speaker Ryan’s speech, but showing up 45 minutes prior left me and my fellow interns 400th in line, and we did not get in.
With this in mind, the other interns in my committee and I left our office two hours before Kushner was scheduled to speak, to ensure a spot in the large auditorium in the Capitol Visitor Center. The two hours flew by, thanks to IPhone games and power naps, and before we knew it we were seated in the fourth row with a great view of the podium.
Before Kushner took the stage, the director of the intern lecture series walked up to the mic and stated that she had heard rumors that a few interns in the room had been instructed to record Kushner’s speech and live stream it for their congressional offices and media organizations. The great thing about these lectures is that they are all off the record, which means members of congress can give real advice and insight to Capitol Hill interns who are intending on going into politics. With an off the record promise, these public officials do not have to be overly careful about what they say, a sharp departure than their usual stump speeches and interviews in front of the camera where every word is parsed. An off the record helps establish a more relaxed and open environment which is conducive to learning. This does not mean that any member of congress or official has said anything controversial, it just means that they can be slightly more critical of their own party, or the President, without a news headline popping up which puts them in a politically dangerous position.
So anyway, the director of the program urged us all to NOT leak any information about the lecture to anyone outside the room.
Kushner gave a very insightful speech which included solid career advice and thoughts on how to navigate Washington DC as a political novice, which he was before he began working on his father-in-law’s campaign for President. After his speech, he took un-vetted questions from the crowd of interns, to which he gave long and thoughtful responses.
After the lecture, I returned to my office and the first thing I saw online was an article detailing everything Kushner had said, with exact quotes.
It would be naive to think that with a guest as politically charged as Jared Kushner, many interns would not record his off the record session. Yet it was still disappointing. Regardless of party affiliation, or opinions of Kushner himself, I believe that he still deserves the basic courtesies of remaining off the record if that is the rule of the speaker series.
As we see nearly every day, DC is and probably always will be notorious for leaks!