Emanuel trying to build ‘relationships’ with Trump team
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WASHINGTON — Mayor Rahm Emanuel huddled with key members of President Donald Trump’s team here on Monday: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s influential son-in-law and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Emanuel also traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., an outspoken Trump critic who has become a target of the president.
Emanuel’s daytrip was his first of the Trump-era and comes as Emanuel’s mission, a City Hall spokesman said, is to forge relationships with a new cast of Republican power players.
There is a sense of urgency: Trump regularly attacks Chicago for its violence and threatens to “send in the Feds” if Emanuel can’t stop the bloodshed.
Sessions, confirmed by the Senate last week — with only one Democrat voting yes — met with Emanuel in his conference room at the Justice Department.
The two avoided a hot-button issue, whether the Trump administration intends to pursue a consent decree, which could result in the appointment of a federal monitor, to implement sweeping reforms to the Chicago Police Department recommended after the Obama Justice Department found patterns of racial bias.
Sessions opposes the use of police department consent decrees.
A Justice Department spokesman said the topic did not come up. They did discuss “what might be done to combat the shootings and bring back proactive community policing,” the department said in a statement.
“Public safety is a top priority for everyone, and over the course of the day the Mayor reiterated his request for added federal resources including ex-offender programs, mentoring and increased federal gun prosecution in Chicago, as well as additional federal agents,” said Matt McGrath, Emanuel’s spokesman.
A major Emanuel beef is the lack of aggressive gun prosecutions.
For the past eight years, Emanuel, first as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, and then as mayor, had the clout to get meetings at will with anyone in the Obama orbit.
With no more backstage pass, Emanuel is working the precincts.
In week four of the Trump presidency, Emanuel has spent more than 90 minutes in the White House:
• Emanuel and Priebus talked in the spacious West Wing chief of staff office Emanuel once occupied. The two sat down on a tumultuous day at the White House that had Trump defending Priebus in the wake of reports his job may be in peril.
Priebus met with Emanuel “partially as a courtesy” because former chiefs of staff make up a “small club,” a White House source said.
“They talked about Chicago, the issues that they are facing, issues that urban communities are facing,” the source said.
As for whether Emanuel’s trek to the White House means Trump will lay off his stream of Chicago jabs, the source said, “I think they both have a common goal in reducing the crime rate in Chicago. I don’t think either one of them would argue that.”
• The mayor also met with Kushner, a senior adviser married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. The “goal is to find a way to work together,” a City Hall spokesman said about the meeting.
• Emanuel also met with Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, who was the second-in-command at Goldman Sachs, and Dina Powell, the former Goldman Sachs Foundation president who is now an assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives.
Emanuel knows Powell because they worked together on Goldman Sachs small business initiatives in Chicago. Powell’s portfolio includes some of the issues Ivanka Trump wants the Trump administration to promote.
If relationships are based on each side getting something, an area where Emanuel could be helpful to Kushner is on Israel.
Trump made Kushner a key player as Trump tries to solve the intractable issues that have prevented an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay his first call on the Trump White House on Wednesday.
Obama and Netanyahu had a chilly relationship. Still, Emanuel has considerable expertise when it comes to Israel: The son of an Israeli, Emanuel knows the players and the issues, and even if he does not agree on the Trump approach, he brings his experience of dealing with the issue in the Obama and Clinton White House.