Now that Donald Trump has won the White House, his son-in-law Jared Kushner—Ivanka’s husband—is reportedly playing a major role on his transition team. It has been widely reported that Kushner was behind the firing of New Jersey governor Chris Christie and others associated with him, a “bloodletting” that was said to create a certain amount of disarray. Kushner’s enmity for Christie stems from the fact that Christie once prosecuted Kushner’s father for tax evasion and witness tampering, among other charges.
The wealthy son of New Jersey real state mogul (and convicted felon) Charles Kushner, Jared was an exceedingly loyal soldier during his father-in-law’s campaign, most notably defending Trump against charges of trafficking in hatred of Jews when he retweeted a blatantly anti-Semitic image. Just as odd considering the Kushner family’s Holocaust heritage, there is no indication that Jared has any particular problem with the appointment of Steve Bannon, a leader of the racist and anti-Semitic alt-right movement, to the post of Trump’s chief strategist in the White House. The soft-spoken Kushner has generally managed to fly under the media radar. Now, Trump is said to be considering giving him the highest level of security clearance. Such is the reward for loyalty.
What else do we know about Kushner? Some insights into him were provided a few months ago in the New Yorker and Esquire magazines, which both published not terribly flattering profiles of the golden boy and member of Trump inner circle.
Here are some revelations about Kushner you might want to keep in mind going forward.
1. Jared is a really good compartmentalizer. It runs in the family.
In August 2004, Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, head of a multi-million-dollar real estate empire in New Jersey, pleaded guilty to 18 felony counts of tax fraud, election violations and witness tampering. Interestingly, future Trump toadie Chris Christie was the prosecutor who indicted him as New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, but we’ll get to that.
Charles Kushner set his sister’s husband up with a sex worker and filmed their interactions in an effort to blackmail her out of cooperating with a federal investigation. Such a nice family man. But it didn’t work. Charles ended up being sentenced to two years in prison.
Similarly, his son Jared, an observant Jew, seems to be able to convince himself that the fact that his father-in-law courts and hires white supremacists is A-OK. Nor does he seem troubled by Trump’s desired persecution of a group of people for their religion, Muslims. Jared angered members of his own family by defending Trump’s tweet of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of the Star of David and money by invoking his own relatives’ Holocaust experiences.
2. Jared has long been a Trump admirer.
And imitation is the best form of flattery. In an echo of Trump’s real estate career, at the tender age of 24 (right after dad was sent to prison), Jared Kushner used his father’s real estate empire and money to break into the high-profile Manhattan real estate scene. As Vicky Ward writes in her Esquire profile:
“Much as Trump’s renovation of the Grand Hyatt hotel three decades earlier had carried his family’s real estate empire across the East River from Queens, Jared’s purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue, just three blocks from Trump’s own trophy skyscraper, was an unmissable sign of the Kushners’ arrival in Manhattan.”
Some say Kushner’s admiration of Trump has morphed into a kind of hero worship. He has a stash of red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps in his office and is said to be in awe of the Trump campaign slogan, telling people, “It came right out of Trump’s head.”
3. Much like the Donald, Jared isn’t as good a businessman as he claims to be.
He does not even run his family’s business, according to Vicky Ward’s Esquire profile; his ex-con father does. Jared is more like a semi-attractive figurehead, at this point.
4. Jared shows some of his father-in-law’s tendency to be vindictive about people he feels have crossed him.
The Esquire profile opens with a lengthy anecdote about a vendetta Kushner pursued using the power of the newspaper he owns (the New York Observer), which his daddy bought for him. Some seven years after Kushner had a dispute with one of his real estate investors, he ordered a hit piece in the paper’s real estate section to settle the score.
“There’s a guy named Richard Mack, and we’ve got to get this guy,” Kushner reportedly told Dan Geiger, the Observer’s real estate reporter.
In fairness, Kushner may have inherited his score-settling streak from his dad. But some of Kushner’s resentments and animosities do overlap Trump’s; he blames the media for his father’s conviction, for instance, and of course, he hates Chris Christie, reportedly fighting hard to deny him Trump’s veep nod. Still, while Jared prevailed in that fight, Trump and Christie are still pretty good pals, maybe thanks to the fact that Christie colluded with Trump to hugely reduce Trump’s tax bill as soon as Christie became governor, to the great detriment of New Jerseyans.
5. As a media mogul, Jared wants to be just like Rupert, as in Murdoch.
Kushner and Rupert Murdoch are really good pals, and Kushner has consulted Murdoch on how to run his little media property, the New York Observer. (Also, Ivanka and Murdoch’s ex-wife, Wendi Deng, are close enough to travel together.)
Actually, Rupert and Wendi might have saved Jared and Ivanka’s relationship before they were married; it was on the rocks because the Orthodox Jewish Kushner family was against their son marrying a blonde shiksa. Jared and Ivanka broke up, but were invited to a party on Murdoch’s yacht and reunited.
Murdoch had expressed admiration for Hillary Clinton when she was New York’s senator, but Kushner brought his pal over to the Trump side. Then again, it might have been Murdoch who awakened Kushner’s conservative side by sharing books by right-wingers like racist pseudo-social scientist Charles Murray and conservative economist Niall Ferguson.
6. While at Harvard, Jared was developing properties in nearby Somerville on the side.
Seriously, who does that in college? Kushner reportedly made $20 million in profit buying old buildings and converting them to condos.
Then again, academia was likely not Kushner’s thing. He was a mediocre student in high school and yet somehow miraculously gained entrance to Harvard after his dad pledged $2.5 million to the school and called in a favor from New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, who asked his friend Ted Kennedy to get Kushner in.
7. Jared fancies himself a JFK type.
Both Jared and his younger brother Josh have photographs of John F. Kennedy on prominent display in their offices. That might change. The family previously leaned Democratic; most of his father’s campaign contributions went to Democrats (like Lautenberg, and Clinton in her Senate run in 2000).
But Charles recently threw a fundraiser for Trump at his Jersey Shore mansion, so he’s on board. Only Josh, reportedly a Democrat, was not planning on voting for Trump.