Listen to this ridiculousness while reminding yourself that Trump's remarks to the Economic Club of New York is supposed to be an official White House event and hence not a campaign speech pic.twitter.com/LjiDbw7zI4— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 12, 2019
Trump on what kind of world leaders can visit his White House: "Dictators, it's okay come on in." He is currently facing bipartisan criticism for inviting Turkey's Erdogan to the White House. pic.twitter.com/eL2kBHMX6a— Oliver Willis (@owillis) November 12, 2019
Behind President Trump’s accommodating attitude toward Turkey is an unusual back channel: a trio of sons-in-law who married into power and now play key roles in connecting Ankara with Washington.
One, Turkey’s finance minister, is the son-in-law of its strongman president and oversees his country’s relationship with the United States.
Another is the son-in-law of a Turkish tycoon and became a business partner to the Trump Organization. Now he advocates for Turkey with the Trump administration.
And the third is Jared Kushner, who as the son-in-law of and senior adviser to Mr. Trump has a vague if expansive foreign policy portfolio.
Operating both individually and in tandem, the three men have developed an informal, next-generation line of communication between Mr. Trump and his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who only weeks after his military incursion into northern Syria is scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday.
At a moment when Mr. Trump has come under bipartisan criticism from Congress for a series of stands favorable to Mr. Erdogan, the ties among the three men show how informal and often-unseen connections between the two presidents have helped shape American policy in a volatile part of the world.
Mr. Erdogan predicted in a television interview this year that a private dialogue between Berat Albayrak, his son-in-law and finance minister, and Mr. Kushner would soon put “back on track” the vexed relations between Washington and Ankara. “The bridge works well in this manner,” Mr. Erdogan said.
“Backdoor diplomacy,” Mr. Albayrak called his work with Mr. Kushner.
Mr. Trump’s policy toward Turkey has confounded his fellow Republicans in Congress on a number of fronts. Mr. Trump twice surprised his own advisers by agreeing during phone calls with Mr. Erdogan to pull United States troops from northern Syria — and the second time, in early October, he followed through, clearing the way for Turkish forces to attack an American-backed militia there.
On the Russian missiles, banking sanctions and other matters, Mr. Erdogan has deployed both his own son-in-law and Mr. Trump’s Turkish business partner, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, as emissaries to the administration, sometimes through Mr. Kushner, according to Turkish officials and public records.
In April, for example, Mr. Albayrak had come to Washington for a conference organized by Mr. Yalcindag at the Trump International Hotel. And in the middle of the event, Mr. Kushner summoned Mr. Albayrak to an impromptu meeting in the Oval Office, where Mr. Albayrak successfully pressed Mr. Trump to hold back the sanctions against Turkey for buying Russian weapons.
Both leaders appear to favor family or business connections as back channels, several advisers to Mr. Erdogan said, in part because both share a suspicion that the agencies of their own governments may be conspiring against them.
The term “deep state,” in fact, first emerged in Turkey decades ago, long before it came into vogue among Trump supporters, and Mr. Erdogan’s advisers say he has cultivated Mr. Trump by emphasizing their shared struggles against such entrenched forces within their governments.
“The U.S. has an established order that we can call a deep state — of course they are obstructing,” Mr. Erdogan said this spring, explaining his hopes for the “bridge” between sons-in-law. “These obstructions are one of our main troubles.”
Turkey is not the only case where Mr. Trump has applied an unusually informal, family-to-family approach to foreign policy. Mr. Kushner, for instance, has also played a role in managing relations with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the de facto ruler and favorite son of the king.
“Trump is replacing formal relations among nations in several cases with family-to-family relationship, or crony-to-crony relationships,” said Eric S. Edelman, who served as under secretary of defense for policy and United States ambassador to Turkey during the George W. Bush administration.
“Certainly Erdogan would prefer that kind of relationship as he runs a crony capitalist regime of his own,” Mr. Edelman said. “But it ought to be a matter of concern to all Americans.”