Then-White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett gives opening remarks at an event on the White House complex on Jan. 16, 2014. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

“I can’t imagine anyone who had misled federal authorities would be a part of his team.”

Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, didn’t want to wade into the messy legal thicket swallowing the Trump administration over unreported meetings with Russians or unreported payments from foreign governments. But she was clear on the values that guided her former boss. “I don’t think he would have ever recruited anybody to join his team who would’ve done something like that,” Jarrett said in her second sit-down for “Cape Up,” featured in the latest episode. “We were very careful about our vetting and made sure that we brought people on board that reflected his values and his priorities and his commitment to our country.”


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The argument from Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan that President Trump should be given a pass for his self-inflicted political wounds landed with a thud for Jarrett. “Every president learns in the course of your time in office,” she told me, “but the American people have the right to expect that you walk in the door prepared for the job.” Later, Jarrett added this bit of truth-telling. “Our democracy … is only as good as the American people demand it should be.”

Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, talks to The Post’s Jonathan Capehart during an interview for the “Cape Up” podcast on June 8. (Carol Alderman/The Washington Post)

Jarrett was one of the longest-serving members of the Obama administration, but don’t look for her to run for public office herself. When I told her there are many folks out there clamoring for her to get into that arena, she laughed, “Well, they may.” But that doesn’t mean Jarrett is not politically active. She’s been vocal about the targeting of Planned Parenthood. “I’m uncomfortable with men making decisions that affect women’s health.” Would she lobby Congress on the women’s-health-care organization? “If I thought it would help, I would go for sure.” And Jarrett isn’t enamored of the effort to repeal Obamacare. “How does this benefit the American people?” she told me. “How does this make us healthier as a country?”

Listen to the podcast to find out why Jarrett loves LGBT Pride month and why she is optimistic about the activism unleashed since Trump’s inauguration. But it comes with a warning. “We can never take progress for granted,” she said. “We always have to stay vigilant and we always have to continue to push and keep our shoulder on that moral arc.”

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.