Donald Trump

Jared Kushner's White House Prominence Was Appalling Long Before This Past Week of Terrible News

Senior policy adviser is a walking conflict of interest playing way out of his depth. But is that reason enough to make his Arab-world dealings subject to the Mueller investigation?

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Dior is hell ||| Dominique Pineiro/Department of Defense
Dominique Pineiro/Department of Defense

It has been an abysmal week for President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior policy adviser, Jared Kushner. On Tuesday of last week, it was reported that the White House security-clearance changes imposed by Chief of Staff John Kelly meant that Kushner, who had been operating on a high-level interim clearance, would be downgraded from "top secret" to "secret," meaning he could no longer legally receive highly classified government information such as the president's daily brief. Such a reading-material demotion, many analysts have reasonably contended, would make it damnably hard for Kushner to manage his foreign policy portfolio of negotiating Mideast peace, and serving as presidential intermediary to the two main targets of Trump's campaign rhetoric: China and Mexico.

That same day the Washington Post also published an embarrassing if vague article asserting that "officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner." The not-insignificant states in question: Israel, China, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. While the piece contained no evidence of subsequent manipulation, nor any historical comparison to similar conversations about previous White House policymakers, it did include the damning nugget that Kushner had conducted several meetings with foreign officials without ever consulting or reporting back to the National Security Council. Also, anonymous quotes like these didn't help:

Within the White House, Kushner's lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him, the current and former officials said. […]

Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was "naive and being tricked" in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel, said one former White House official. […]

White House officials said National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster was taken aback by some of Kushner's foreign contacts.

"When he learned about it, it surprised him," one official said. "He thought that was weird….It was an unusual thing. I don't know that any White House has done it this way before."

Of course, McMaster now has his own problems….

Thursday brought a third body blow to Kushner's tender ribs. The New York Times reported that the embattled adviser held previously undisclosed meetings last year with representatives of both Citigroup and Apollo Global Management, financial institutions that subsequent to those conversations gave to Kushner Companies an eye-opening $509 million in financing. Both Kushner (who has divested incompletely from the business, though his family still owns and runs it) and the bankers say that their meetings contained zero discussion of the deals, though as the Times dryly noted, "There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say government ethics experts." Ya think?

Then on Friday came this news:

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has asked witnesses about Kushner's efforts to secure financing for his family's real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.

As Andrew Prokop muses over at Vox, "The big mystery…is whether Mueller is focusing on all these other topics mainly out of a desire to strengthen a Russia-related case—or whether potential corruption related to Gulf countries and other foreign players is now a new focus in his investigation in and of itself."

One hopes it is the latter, not the former, since the Mueller inquiry is supposed to be about Russia and various possible hijinks related to the 2016 election, not how an underqualified and inexperienced nepotee has blundered through international dealings with unrelated countries in 2017. The investigation should not be used as an expanded security clearance of sorts, or fodder for the seemingly nonstop bureaucratic backstabbing and palace intrigue in Trump's White House. I hope there's a Russian tie-in.

That said, it's worth stepping out of the scrum for a moment and reiterating a central underlying truth that was reinforced over the past week: Jared Kushner has no goddamn business being anywhere near the levers of American foreign policy.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in Saudi Arabia ||| Balkis Press/ABACA/Newscom
Balkis Press/ABACA/Newscom

For starters, Kushner has considerably less foreign policy experience than I do, and you certainly would not want me in the middle of, say, a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Here's a guy who couldn't legally drink until after 9/11, whose biggest business experiences are managing an inherited real estate company (one that made the single most expensive office-building development in American history, which has since degenerated into a failed project requiring a $1.2 billion debt payment by February 2019), and steering a perennially money-losing boutique newspaper into irrelevance and physical extinction. Even if he had zero conflicts of interest—and he has many more than that—such a person is facially, ridiculously even, lacking the minimum experience necessary to hold his own in face-to-faces with, say, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Ah, comes the cynical rejoinder, so you're saying that we need someone experienced, like Henry Kissinger or Dick Cheney? Nope, dope, those guys would be awful too, for entirely different reasons. Whataboutism may be fun on Twitter, but it's not a viable staffing strategy. The myth of the foreign policy naif overcoming his own knowledge/experience gap to defeat the War Machine and/or successfully advance American interests is a Hollywood fable, not a road map toward anywhere desirable. Anti-interventionists and other alienated foreign policy blocs need to develop their own talent pools of international scholars and advocates instead of indulging in short-term, headline-chasing delusions about whatever rando wanders near the reins of power.

And the people who should really object to rookies running foreign policy fiefdoms are arguably those in Trump's political sweet spot: nationalist populists. If you think it's long since past time that America asserted its own interests, and not the "globalist" agenda of sovereignty-busting internationalism, then the last person you want in the trenches against those sophisticated connivers is some babe in the woods who might as well be wearing a "Kick Me!" sign on his flak jacket.

Again, these are reasons to object to Kushner's foreign policy portfolio regardless of his conflicts of interest. But let's now talk about those—and Trump's. It can be hard, in the ongoing drama of daily events, to lose sight of some ways this administration is truly unprecedented and troubling in contemporary history. But having two remarkably debt-leveraged real estate tycoons in the White House is one of them.

Both Trump and Kushner, rather than truly divesting from their extensive portfolios, have instead handed over control to immediate families, who have carried on with high-profile, frequently international, nine-digit fundraising expeditions that leverage the family name. The most infamous example of which came last year, when Kushner's sister Nicole Meyer made a pitch to 100 Chinese investors in Beijing for a $150 million Kushner Companies project, which she advertised as coming from the "star Kushner real estate family," and which, she underscored, "means a lot to me and my entire family." (Jared's elaborate business ties to China, one of his key foreign policy assignments, has elicited several warnings from U.S. counterintelligence services.)

Most of these activities fall under the category of "Legal, if skeevy." But the standard by which taxpayers should hold government employees accountable is properly a good deal more strict than, Well, he didn't OBVIOUSLY break the law. Lists like this should never become the norm.

Similarly, every president certainly has the right to appoint advisers and counselors heavy on loyalty but thin on experience. Bobby Kennedy made it all the way to his brother's cabinet, after all, and Hillary Clinton had an exalted policy role as First Lady even post-Hillarycare (the Communications Decency Act, to cite the most toothy of her attempts to protect children by restricting speech, has Clinton's fingerprints all over it).

But as conservatives used to be the first or second to tell you (particularly in the two preceding examples), license isn't the same thing as propriety. I expect and even want Donald Trump to have some weirdo counselors—a little unorthodoxy can be good for bureaucracies running on autopilot. If he wants his son-in-law to convene White House meetings on innovation with tech CEOs, well, whatever. But Jared Kushner should not be within 500 yards of a personal meeting with a head of state, and when the adults are making the big decisions about foreign policy, he has only one appropriate seat: at the kids' table.

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  1. “Sorry, Jared. We’ve decided you don’t qualify for any clearance, so please forget all that stuff you saw and heard.”

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  2. “…not how an underqualified and inexperienced nepotee has blundered through international dealings with unrelated countries”.

    You mean like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama?

    Jesus Christ, you Cosmos make me laugh. There are 19 year olds in the military receiving top secret information too.

    1. Seriously, I don’t see how Ivanka and Jared are any different than Hillary was doing Bill’s administration. If anything, she had even more influence and power.

      1. and most of Bill Clinton’s staff never received security clearance but were still allowed to see everything

        1. Until they bleached the servers that is.

      2. Agree to this but it is “whataboutism” anyway. Jared K and Ivanka should never have had top secret security clearance.

        1. POTUS is and remains the final authority on such matters.

          Like it or not, that is the way it must be.

    2. I really like Welch when he talks about libertarian things. His TDS, however is extreme, and I have lost a lot of respect for him due to it.

      Welch is basically saying that business people shouldn’t be able to be in government because we just can’t know if they are being shady or not. That is an extreme left point of view.

      Welch is also claiming that Kushner can’t be good at his job… by making all sorts of ridiculous assumptions about Kushner. Whataboutism, indeed.

      1. There are conflicts of interest so flagrant that if a GS-5 under Obama had engaged in them you people’s rage would be a white hot ball of fire.

        Why are you giving up all your credibility forever for these crooks and idiots? You can’t possibly think this is going to turn out well.

        1. So Kushner broke the law, relating to conflicts of interest?

          Or it is your opinion that his business dealings are a conflict of interest?

          1. It’s being investigated.

            1. They haven’t found anything after a whole year?

              I am sure that Mueller has zero conflicts of interest.

              Kettle, someone on the phone for you.

              1. Wait, have you been a Russian this whole time?

                1. Aw Tony, you are already giving up and shooting off FSB jokes?

                  You are funny Tony. A real comedic tragedy.

                  1. Your handle and mindless Trump cheerleading says Russian troll, but your English is, admittedly, too good.

                    1. Tony….English as a second language to Korean.

                      Tony, the pedophile agent from North Korea.

        2. “White hot ball of fire” was my nickname in college…

        3. The fact that you are on a site and refer to its participants as “you people” is all we need to hear. You are nothing but a troll, and do not belong here. Nor do we need your loosely so-called “contributions”. Just do us all, and yourself, a favor and go away.

      2. TLBD is right. Just listen to 5th Column and you’ll hear a rant a week from him against Trump. Welch cant see beyond his own hate. It’s sad, really. Declaration of Indies was very good. Matt should confine himself to economic and civil liberties and lay off the politics.

    3. The evul libs didn’t take Jared’s clearance away you moron.

      1. Tony wants everyone to think that bureaucrats are just apolitical little helpers who would never sabotage their political enemies.

        1. Are you referring to the guy Trump hired to be his chief of staff?

          1. Who’s the chief of staff?

            1. Obviously, one of the best people.

              1. Not as good as Block Yo Mamma’s chief of staff, ammirite?

        2. It’s best not to engage Tony. It only encourages him.

          1. Yes, but if he leaves, who will we have to mock?

    4. There are 19 year olds in the military receiving top secret information too.

      Not an exact parallel though. Those 19 year olds in the military aren’t expected to go deal with heads of state on behalf of the United States.

      Jesus Christ, you Cosmos make me laugh.

      COOOZZZZMMMOOOOZZZZZZZ!!!!!!11!!1111!!!!!!!

      1. You might be right about 19 year olds dealing with heads of state recently. There are also historical examples to the contrary.

        In Iraq and Afghanistan junior officers (22/23 years old) often dealt with tribal leaders.

        Historically, young kings and queens dealt with leaders of other nations.

        By age 21, Alexander the Great was well on his way to conquering the known World.

        Kind of surprising that for Reason, age is the determining factor rather than ability. I would think Kushner doing fairly well as young as he is indicates some aptitude in the foreign relations arena.

      2. I was 20 when I got my TS/SCI clearance, but mostly I was concerned with preventing our RC-135s from getting shot down. KAL 007 was unfortunate to get lost right after one of our birds left my area of responsibility.

        But they never let me do deals with heads of foreign governments. And that was a good thing.

        Seriously, the executive branch now has a level of corruption equal to a third world banana republic. WTF? I’d have lost my clearance for way less than what is going on with these characters.

        1. Yeah, if only the MSM had paid this kind of attention to the Obama administration.

  3. Reporting on reporting, Matt shows he is more than qualified to work at NPR.

  4. For starters, Kushner has considerably less foreign policy experience than I do, and you certainly would not want me in the middle of, say, a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

    You couldn’t handle an arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Matt.

    How are you supposed to get experience if you cannot be trusted to do things? Is there another way to get foreign policy experience besides engaging in foreign policy talks and actions?

    1. Ideally, at first, one would do so under the guidance of someone actually presently qualified to do so and not be expected to figure it out as he went along.

    2. Remember how it was totes cool that Obama’s sole experience at being an executive was running for chief executive?

      Matt is embarassing himself daily.

  5. This is a great strategy for those that wanted Hillary to be Prez.

    Make a Trump administration job so toxic that nobody wants the job. Then undermine everyone that is doing the job okay or well. Harass those people until they quit and then say “look its because Trump is a poopy head”. Nobody else then wants those jobs.

    Then finally, Hillary is picked to be president.

    1. Have you ever considered, you of the ‘The Market Is God’ school of thought, that the fact that no one with anything resembling competence wants these jobs says something about the boss and the job?

      1. This never stopped incompetent TOP MEN before under Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.

        I would bet money that you have not figured out yet in life that many people who are deemed competent by the forces that be, are far from good at their jobs or know what they are doing.

        People who run their own business successfully tend to know quite a bit about getting things done within their budget and dealing with other people. Americans want more of that, me thinks.

        1. I have also learned that expertise is a real thing, and that being good at one thing does not often transfer to being good at another. I have also learned that dimwit frat boys like Kushner are never good at much of anything. In his case, his only accomplishment is buying a white elephant buidling at the highest possible price using a loan he now cannot pay. That is the opposite of being good at the real estate business.

          1. I have never met Kushner and cannot get an objective story from the media on him, so I will default that he is probably not as bad as the media is squawking about. I do know that many in the media are lying shitheels.

            I have also learned that what lefties call expertise is actually something else than expertise for their job role. Its more an expertise in stealing, lying, killing, and New Soviet Man type of job skills.

    2. Some of this is also on the Never Trump Republicans who were also making Trump administration jobs so toxic that there weren’t any A or B list politicos who wanted to take them. So the folks Trump has to fill his White House are C and D listers, with a sprinkling of folks like Mattis who are in the job because they actually want to be of service to the country, and some A or B listers who are taking the jobs because they are either planning to retire afterwards, or they think that Trump is actually riding a rising tide in the Republican party, and they’re going to catch that wave themselves and become superstars.

  6. Here’s a guy who couldn’t legally drink until after 9/11

    Ageism? Seriously?

    1. No obviously Jared Kushner really is exceptionally qualified to deliver peace in the Middle East.

      1. Not everyone can get a Noble Peace prize before murdering Americans and innocent people via drones.

        1. No retort, Tony?

          1. Your defense of Kusher is that Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize.

            1. I don’t know if Kushner is any good. I have my doubts, but no results to indicate my assessment should be less than neutral.

              But if “peace in the mid east” is your measure, Kushner is, so far, way ahead of Kerry, Clinton, Rice, Powell, Albright, or any others in the last 20 years. The region hasn’t gotten more violent in his tenure, unlike everyone else listed.

              Maybe reason enough to give Kush a chance.

      2. Probably at least as qualified as was Jimmy Carter

  7. Uh oh, Matt, you cited Vox approvingly. Don’t you know you have to post a trigger warning before doing that?

    1. No libertarians have to post a TW before doing that. Folks like Matt cite shit like Vox all the time.

  8. I absolutely adore all the “but whatabouts” listing things Democrats allegedly did. If it was wrong for Clinton and Obama, why is it now okay for Trump? If it is okay for Trump, then quit complaining about Clinton and Obama. Also, I don’t recall anything about any other President’s relatives using a diplomatic crisis (the Qatar blockade bit) to punish an ally for refusing to bail out his terrible real estate investment.

    1. The only justification for the “whatabouts” is that for 8 sordid years we watched the MSM sweep every potential scandal in the Obama administration under the rug, right up to the mess with the Clintons, Lynch and the FBI. On the other hand, Trump has not had a day without some little yappy mutt in the MSM chewing on his ankles and all the rest cheering him on. So to say “whatabout this” or “whatabout that” is to say “why do you do your job so selectively and dishonestly?” And of course, day after day the MSM has no answer. I am not a Trump guy, never have been. But I’ve been around long enough to remember Eisenhower and can say without fear of contradiction that I have never seen an administration so constantly belabored from the first by an unremittingly hostile media.

      1. ‘Whataboutism’ from the crowd that gave us eight years of ‘but BUSH!’ is about as predictable as was gunsplaining being problematic.

        It’s all just a thinly veiled “shut up” coming from the left.

  9. That same day the Washington Post also published an embarrassing if vague article asserting that “officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner.”

    If only Hillary had won, there’s no way any foreign governments could possibly manipulate her or whoever her foreign policy would have been. /sarc

    1. You people are so fucking pathetic it causes me to feel embarrassment over the internet. You idiots would be hyperventilating with the heat of a billion Rush Limbaugh farts if President Hillary so much as wore a pantsuit in the wrong color for the season. Who do you think you’re fooling with this constant, insane apologetics shit?

      The corruption here is breathtaking. The smart move would be to jump ship before you look like even more of a goddamn sucker.

      1. The corruption here is breathtaking.

        Yes, it is. But it’s not as if the other option was any less corrupt. Why don’t just go fuck off with you idiotic, mouth breathing binary thinking. Trump and Hillary both suck, for many of the same reasons. Go fuck yourself, you stupid retarded piece of shit. I can’t wait for the day when you finally do the world a favor and off yourself. Shithead.

        1. The other option was infinitely less corrupt, not to mention infinitely more competent. I don’t know what to tell you. Why do you let yourself be had so easily?

          1. Hillary who okayed the sale of Uranium One to Russia for donations, flew into a sniper infested zone in the former Yugoslavia, blamed terrorist attacks on video of muhammed’s image, was a senator of NY for a few months, first lady of an impeached president, and lost the 2016 election?

            That experience?

            1. I’m starting to think you don’t actually believe anything you write.

              1. Why? Because you don’t believe anything YOU write?

                Tony, I have forgotten more knowledge in my years than you will ever possibly have in that pea sized brain of yours.

          2. The other option was infinitely less corrupt, not to mention infinitely more competent.

            That might the most hilariously stupid thing you’ve ever said, and that’s a really high bar. Bravo, well done! You’ve finally outdone yourself.

            What probably pissed me off the most about your earlier comment is that if you ever bothered to actually read what people on here say as opposed to debating the strawmen in your head, you would have known that I am not now, nor have a I ever been, a Trump supporter. I’ve been very consistent all the way back to the election that I thought both options sucked ass, but you just can’t conceive of anyone not getting on their knees alongside you and sucking Hillary’s clit, so you just assume that everyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of Democrat partisan hackery must be some brain dead “Trumptard,” and lash out at anyone saying anything negative about your would be queen. I almost feel sorry for people as stupid as you.

            1. The cult of false equivalence may not be quite as stupid as the cult of Trumptardism, but its practical consequences are identical. And I might even argue that at least Trumptards are picking a team, like grownups.

              1. And I might even argue that at least Trumptards are picking a team, like grownups.

                You’ve written some doozies over the years but that may take the prize. Tony: “Left or right, pick a team so that I can fit you into your proper niche.”

                That explains your constant ignorant lumping of libertarians with Republicans: You *need* to fit us into a predefined group so that you can use the proper Salon-provided derisives. Keeps you from needing to actually address our arguments. Your kind needs to put everyone you meet into their proper box before you know how to treat them.

                You’re a nasty little collectivist, you hate thinking, and you’ll never improve yourself.

                1. A Democrat or a Republican is going to be president. Since they tend to have totally opposing governing philosophies, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be equally bad.

                  You pick a team whether you acknowledge it or not. Being “above it all” and doing this false equivalence horseshit just gives your tacit approval to whatever happens.

              2. Remember when all we had to deal with was Obamatardism?

      2. Tony, the actual Libertarians on here are already aware government is corrupt. At least with Trump the lefty media is actually dissecting everything that goes on, unlike when The Jewel of the Nile was president.

        Explain what is corrupt with Kushner again. I got side tracked because of the Florida kids being killed by a lone gunman and then weeks of unconstitutional gun control hype and then lefties in government trying to enact unconstitutional legislation that would result in my death when I wiped out a SWAT team trying to take my guns away.

        1. Trump was supposed to be a tonic for the usual government corruption because he was an outsider. Turns out that little hypothesis was a bust.

          1. He’s on track to be the best president for decades. Better than Obama, W Bush, Clinton, Bush, Carter, Ford, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Truman, FDR, and Wilson.

            That is after a just over a year as prez. Imagine what will happen after the Democrats lose more seats in the House and Senate.

            1. Oddsmakers indicate Pres. Trump is not expected to complete his first term. You can get decent proposition lines on resignation, impeachment, or just “will exit presidency.’

              The odds are long on conviction by the Senate, though, as they should be. No Democrat, liberal, moderate, or libertarian should want to stop the damage Pres. Trump is inflicting on the Republican-conservative brand.

            2. You are a special kind of delusional. Very few Limbaugh junkies actually think he’s all that good at being president.

      3. “You people” — once again, Tony, you declare yourself to be a stranger in a strange land. You have nothing to say to us and no good reason to take up space here.

  10. your article is interesting and points out possible conflicts of interest but shows no proof that Jared is incapable of the job given him and the idea that some nations are wondering how they can manipulate a person is the same question they ask of all people they deal with, that is not proof of manipulation and in fact when someone realizes they are trying to manipulate them they can be more prepared unlike Hillary’s blind assumption that a button reset with Putin was all that was needed to work together.

    1. *watches Matt stomp his feet that Hillary was supposed to be president.

    2. Agreed. The case that this is a big deal was poorly made. I can agree that the nepotism of Trump having his kids and stepson highly positioned in the administration is a bad thing. I can agree that Kushner probably shouldn’t have a high level clearance. I definitely agree that he shouldn’t be the one negotiating deals between the US and other countries (even if he could serve a role of starting negotiations.)
      Welch needs to calm down a bit on his hatred of Trump. There are justifiable reasons to criticize the president and Kushner. He just isn’t making a good case and hyperventilating over his own emotional reasons.

  11. Open letter for Ivanka:

    If you like comix and weed, dump your dweeb husband and let’s hook up. I’ll bang you hard.

    MONGO

    1. I’d never get past the fact that before her surgeries she looked just like Eric.

      1. She was a goofy-lookin’ kid.

        1. You should see Tony. Goofy does not adequately describe how fugly that kid is.

          1. Didn’t stop your mom.

            1. Now that’s a retort that suits you, Tony. I suggest you quit while you’re ahead

  12. “Such a reading-material demotion, many analysts have reasonably contended, would make it damnably hard for Kushner to manage his foreign policy portfolio of negotiating Mideast peace”

    You’re assuming that his friends in Israeli intelligence aren’t able or willing to keep Jared informed with the latest top secrets.

    1. Might as well throw some nigger jokes in there too. I thought the lefties that hate blacks and jews wear KKK outfits, like in the good old days?

      1. Lefties, blacks and Jews have opposed the KKK. Anyhow, my apologies for my anti-semitism, mentioning the name of that country in an otherwise respectable public forum. Jared’s friends in the international intelligence community will undoubtedly respect the spirit of America’s security clearance apparatus.

  13. The Post’s “embarrassing if vague article” had a lovely chunk of non-story hidden in language intended to make it sound like a story, which Welch took hook, line, and sinker, despite the fact that they provided enough information to identify the part that’s non-story. The pull quote from Welch’s article, where he almost gets it, but then misses is, “nor any historical comparison to similar conversations about previous White House policymakers”. Except that the article did have a vague historical comparison, “Foreign governments routinely discuss ways they can influence senior officials in all administrations.” But that doesn’t stop the article from stoking the fires of TDS by imputing something uniquely sinister about the fact that they’ve discussed how to influence *Kushner*. It’s much the same as the people crowing about reports that “The Russians targeted [X]” and claiming that such targeting is evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Trump campaign. What I find both sad and amusing is the Democrats who point to the Russian targeting of the 2016 election and say it’s a Trump problem, when any successes such targeting might have achieved in influencing the election are actually failures on the part of the Obama administration.

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