The meeting underlines the extent to which West is connected to GOP figures despite saying he no longer supported Donald Trump

By Adam Carlson
August 12, 2020 05:01 PM
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Kanye West "met privately" with Jared Kushner last weekend, according to The New York Times — though West was quick to dispute the implication it was about his improbable presidential campaign, which has multiple Republican ties.

"I’m willing to do a live interview with the New York Time about my meeting with Jared where we discussed Dr Claude Anderson’s book Powernomics," West tweeted Tuesday night. (Anderson's book, published in 2001, details "The National Plan to Empower Black America.")

The Times reported that West, 43, flew to Telluride to meet with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, both of whom are senior White House aides to President Donald Trump.

West's wife, Kim Kardashian West, was not present, according to the paper.

The Kardashian West family had been vacationing after a trip to the Dominican Republican following a turbulent period in Kim and Kanye's marriage, with Kanye making a series of alarming statements after announcing he was running for president.

Kanye spoke with the Times but did not detail his discussion with Kushner, 39.

The report about their meeting underlines the extent to which Kanye is connected to GOP figures, despite saying last month he was rescinding his support for President Trump and launching his own presidential bid.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the meeting. Neither Kanye's reps nor Kushner responded to messages seeking comment.

"I would run as a Republican if Trump wasn’t there," Kanye told Forbes last month. "I will run as an independent if Trump is there.” Earlier this month, his campaign launched a website outlining his platform, which mixes traditional religious and fiscal conservatism with issues like the arts and legal reform.

Kanye West (left) and Jared Kushner
Brad Barket/Getty; Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty

While Kanye will not appear on enough state ballots as an independent to win the presidency, he has filed paperwork in at least 10 states so far — in some cases, with the help of Republican lawyers and strategists.

He has also boasted of being able to beat former Vice President Joe Biden by write-in ballots alone.

How many states Kanye may ultimately appear on remains unclear, however: He failed to qualify in Illinois and New Jersey after his paperwork was challenged in both states.

As Kanye''s campaign's Republican support has become public, critics have grown louder in arguing his run is designed only to splinter Biden's support in a bid to aid Trump. (The limited polling on this tells a more complicated story: Kanye was at 2 percent support in a national poll this summer and previous surveys do not show he draws robust approval from Black voters, for example, who make up a core Biden demographic.)

The Trump campaign insists they have no role in what Kanye's team is doing, too — though a lawyer who filed election paperwork on Kanye's behalf in Wisconsin has also defended the Trump campaign this year.

Kanye and Kushner have a previous relationship: A source told PEOPLE Kushner was first connected to him and Kim through Ivanka. Kim subsequently worked with the White House on various criminal justice reform issues, which is a rare bipartisan priority for the Trump administration.

“Kim did not support Trump, and her family didn’t support him,” another source previously told PEOPLE.

“But,” said this source, “she knows that she has a very rare opportunity to have the ear of the president, and she has some things that she’s very passionate about and is willing to meet with him to talk about the things she believes.”

From left: Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West
Matt Baron/Shutterstock

In addition to lobbying the president on particular cases, Kim also spoke out in support of the First Step Act.

“Honestly she’s mostly attentive when she comes to meetings, hearing, listening, trying to understand the best way she can motivate her supporters,” a source familiar with her White House work told PEOPLE last year.

Since Kim first connected with Kushner, the two stayed in touch, according to the source. She had dinner with him and Ivanka at their Washington, D.C., home in 2018 when she met the president.

This source also said last year that Kushner also passed on a lead to Kim to help find a residence for Matthew Charles, another prisoner whose case she became interested in. (She met and spoke with an attorney for Charles in the fall, the attorney told PEOPLE.)

But Kushner's ties to Kanye now — in light of his improbable bid — have fueled arguments the administration is working with him behind the scenes.

"Why the hell is Jared Kushner and Kanye West holding secret meetings?" one critic wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "Oh that’s right, because all that Trump does is cheat."