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WASHINGTON — Coming off the first major legislative defeat of his presidency, President Trump is trying to turn the page Monday with the creation of a new White House office designed to bring ideas from the private sector into the federal government.
The White House Office of American Innovation will be run by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, currently a senior adviser to the president whose portfolio already has included acting as the administration’s point person on Mideast peace.
“This office will bring together the best ideas from government, the private sector and other thought leaders to ensure that America is ready to solve tomorrow’s most intractable problems, and is positioned to meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities,” Trump said in a presidential memorandum. “The office will focus on implementing policies and scaling proven private-sector models to spur job creation and innovation.”
Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, will be joined in the new office by officials with private sector experience, including former Goldman Sachs executives Gary Cohn, who is now director of the National Economic Council, and Dina Habib Powell, who is senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security adviser.
The announcement comes at a low point for Trump, three days after Republican legislation to largely repeal and replace Obamacare failed to win enough votes for passage.
Kushner, a Trump confidant, was on a ski vacation in Colorado last week as the health care bill failed.
The innovation group has already been meeting twice a week, and they have already hosted meetings with private sector chief executives whose expertise they hope to tap for the effort, including Tim Cook of Apple, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Tesla.
Areas they hope to tackle include overhauling Veterans’ Affairs, improving workforce development and targeting opioid addiction.
“As some of its first priorities, the office will focus on modernizing the technology of every federal department, identifying transformational infrastructure projects and re-imagining the VA system so they can better serve our nation’s heroes,” press secretary Sean Spicer said.
He said the VA appears to be doing certain things well, such as bulk purchases of prescription drugs, but there are other areas, including record-keeping and the purchasing of technology that need improvement.
“There are certain practices that we can put in place that can help us deliver a better product and better service to the American people in some of these key areas,” Spicer said.
Contributing: Associated Press