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Jared Kushner

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Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner June 2019.jpg
Kushner in 2019
Director of the Office of American Innovation
Assumed office
March 27, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyJohn F. Kelly
Mick Mulvaney
Mark Meadows
Preceded byOffice established
Senior Advisor to the President[1]
Assumed office
January 20, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byValerie Jarrett
Brian Deese
Shailagh Murray
Personal details
Born
Jared Corey Kushner

(1981-01-10) January 10, 1981 (age 39)
Livingston, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (2018–present)
Other political
affiliations
Democratic (until 2009)
Independent (2009–2018)
Spouse(s)
(m. 2009)
Children3
FatherCharles Kushner
RelativesDonald Trump (father-in-law)
Joseph Berkowitz (grandfather)
Joshua Kushner (brother)
Murray Kushner (uncle)
Marc Kushner (cousin)
EducationHarvard University (AB)
New York University (JD, MBA)
AwardsOrder of the Aztec Eagle (2018)[2][3][4]

Jared Corey Kushner (born January 10, 1981) is an American investor, real estate developer, and newspaper publisher who is a senior advisor to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, the president of the United States. Kushner is the son of the former real-estate developer Charles Kushner and is married to Ivanka Trump, President Trump's daughter and fellow advisor. As a result of his father's conviction and incarceration for fraud, he took over management of his father's real estate company Kushner Companies, which launched his business career. He later also bought Observer Media, publisher of the New York Observer. He is the co-founder and part owner of Cadre, an online real-estate investment platform.

During the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, Kushner helped develop and run Trump's digital media strategy. In 2017, he was named as a senior White House advisor, raising concerns about nepotism. He also stirred controversy for his conflicts of interest, as he continued to engage in business, even profiting on policy proposals that he himself pushed for within the administration.[5] Kushner was unable to obtain Top Secret Security clearance until May 2018, when Trump reportedly intervened on his son-in-law's behalf.

As senior advisor to President Trump, Kushner pushed strongly for the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill which Trump signed into law in 2018. Kushner authored a peace plan in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was announced in January 2020 and described by some as highly favorable for Israel.[6] Kushner was the primary Trump administration participant in talks leading to the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in August 2020.[7][8]

Early life and education

Kushner was born in Livingston, New Jersey, to Seryl Kushner (née Stadtmauer) and Charles Kushner, a real-estate developer and convicted felon.[9] His paternal grandparents, Reichel and Joseph Kushner, were Holocaust survivors who came to the U.S. in 1949 from Navahrudak, now in Belarus.[10][11] Morris Stadtmauer was Jared's maternal grandfather.[12]

Raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish family,[13] Kushner graduated from the Frisch School, a Modern Orthodox yeshiva high school, in 1999. With help from his father, he enrolled at Harvard University in 1999. According to journalist Daniel Golden, Kushner's father made a donation of $2.5 million to the University in 1998, not long before Jared was admitted.[14][15] He was elected into the Fly Club, supported the campus Chabad house,[16][17] and bought and sold real estate in Somerville, Massachusetts, as a vice president of Somerville Building Associates (a division of Kushner Companies), returning a profit of $20 million by its dissolution in 2005.[18][19][20] Kushner graduated from Harvard in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government.[21][22]

Kushner enrolled in a joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration program coordinated between New York University School of Law and New York University Stern School of Business. He graduated in 2007 with dual JD/MBA degrees. During his time at NYU, Kushner interned at Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office, and with the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.[23]

Business career

Following his father's conviction and subsequent incarceration, Jared Kushner took a much bigger role in the family real estate business.[24] He set about expanding the business and purchased almost $7 billion in property over the next ten years, much of it in New York City.[25] As of 2019, Kushner's net worth is estimated at about $800 million.[26]

Real estate

Kushner was a real-estate investor, and increased Kushner Companies' presence in the New York City real-estate market.[27]

Kushner Companies purchased 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007 for $1.8 billion, the most expensive single property purchase in US history at the time.[28]

Kushner Companies purchased the office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007, for a then-record price of $1.8 billion, most of it borrowed.[28] He assumed the role of CEO in 2008.[29] Following the property crash that year, the cash flow generated by the property was insufficient to cover its debt service, and the Kushners were forced to sell the retail footage to Stanley Chera[30] and bring in Vornado Realty Trust as a 50% equity partner in the ownership of the building.[31] By that time, Kushner Companies had lost more than $90 million on its investment.[32] He was the face of the deal but his father Charles Kushner pushed him to do the deal.[33]

On August 18, 2014, Kushner acquired a three-building apartment portfolio in Middle River, Maryland, for $38 million with Aion Partners. In 2013–2014, he and his company acquired more than 11,000 units throughout New York, New Jersey, and the Baltimore area.[34] In May 2015, he purchased 50.1% of the Times Square Building from Africa Israel Investments Ltd. for $295 million.[35]

In May 2015, Kushner purchased a majority stake of One Times Square for $295 million.[35]

In 2014, Kushner, with his brother Joshua and Ryan Williams, co-founded Cadre (now RealCadre LLC), an online real-estate investment platform. His business partners included Goldman Sachs and billionaire George Soros, a top Democratic Party donor.[36][37][38] In early 2015, Soros Fund Management financed the startup with a $250 million credit line.[36][39] Kushner did not identify these business relationships in his January 2017 government financial-disclosure form.[36][40]

Newspaper publishing

Kushner (right) with The New York Observer's then editor-in-chief Peter W. Kaplan, September 2008.

In 2006, Kushner purchased The New York Observer, a weekly New York City newspaper, for $10 million,[41] using money he says he earned during his college years by closing deals on residential buildings in Somerville, Massachusetts,[42] with family members providing the backing for his investments.[43]

After purchasing the Observer, Kushner published it in tabloid format.[44] Since then, he has been credited with increasing the Observer's online presence and expanding the Observer Media Group.[45][46] With no substantial experience in journalism, Kushner could not establish a good relationship with the newspaper's veteran editor-in-chief, Peter W. Kaplan.[47] "This guy doesn't know what he doesn't know", Kaplan remarked about Kushner, to colleagues, at the time.[47] As a result of his differences with Kushner, Kaplan quit his position. Kaplan was followed by a series of short-lived successors until Kushner hired Elizabeth Spiers in 2011.[48] It has been alleged that Kushner used the Observer as propaganda against rivals in real estate.[48][49] Spiers left the newspaper in 2012. In January 2013, Kushner hired a new editor-in-chief, Ken Kurson. Kurson had been a consultant to Republican political candidates in New Jersey.[48]

According to Vanity Fair, under Kushner, the "Observer has lost virtually all of its cultural currency among New York's elite, but the paper is now profitable and reporting traffic growth ... [it] boasts 6 million unique visitors per month, up from 1.3 million in January 2013".[50] In April 2016, the New York Observer became one of only a handful of newspapers to officially endorse United States presidential candidate Donald Trump in the Republican primary, but the paper ended the campaign period by choosing not to back any presidential candidate at all.[51][52]

Kushner stepped down from his newspaper role in January 2017 to pursue a role in President Donald Trump's administration. He was replaced by his brother-in-law, Joseph Meyer.[53]

Politics

Political background

Jared Kushner had been a lifelong Democrat prior to his father-in-law Donald Trump entering politics.[54] He had donated over $10,000 to Democratic campaigns[55] starting at the age of 11. In 2008, he donated to the campaign for Hillary Clinton and his newspaper the New York Observer endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain in the 2008 United States presidential election.[56] After expressing disappointment with Obama, however, he endorsed Republican U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 via the New York Observer.[57] In 2014 he continued to donate to Democratic groups,[56] but he then continued his "ideological conversion" by joining his father-in-law Donald Trump's nascent US presidential campaign in the field of the Republican candidates in 2015.[62] Kushner had no prior involvement in campaign politics or in government before Trump's campaign.[63]

Presidential campaign

Kushner and the Trump family, pictured at a campaign victory party in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 1, 2016

From the outset of the presidential campaign of his father-in-law Donald Trump, Kushner was the architect of Trump's digital, online, and social media campaigns, enlisting talent from Silicon Valley to run a 100-person social-media team dubbed "Project Alamo."[64] Kushner, together with Paul Manafort and Brad Parscale, hired Steve Bannon's firm Cambridge Analytica to support the Trump campaign.[65] Kushner has also helped as a speechwriter, and was tasked with working to establish a plan for Trump's White House transition team.[66] He was for a time seen as Trump's de facto campaign manager, succeeding Corey Lewandowski, who was fired in part on Kushner's recommendation in June 2016.[67] He had been intimately involved with campaign strategy, coordinating Trump's visit in late August to Mexico, and he is believed to be responsible for the choice of Mike Pence as Trump's running mate.[64][68] Kushner's "sprawling digital fundraising database and social media campaign" has been described as "the locus of his father-in-law's presidential bid."[69]

According to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt (who worked on technology for Hillary Clinton's campaign), Kushner's role in the 2016 election was its biggest surprise. Schmidt told Forbes, "Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources."[70] Federal Election Commission filings indicate the Trump campaign spent $343 million, about 59 percent as much as the Clinton campaign.[71]

On July 5, 2016, Kushner wrote an open letter in the New York Observer addressing the controversy around a tweet from the Trump campaign containing allegedly anti-Semitic imagery. He was responding to his own paper's editorial by Dana Schwartz criticizing Kushner's involvement with the Trump campaign.[72] In the letter, Kushner wrote, "In my opinion, accusations like 'racist' and 'anti-Semite' are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering these words meaningless."[73]

Presidential transition

Japanese PM Shinzō Abe meets with Ivanka, president-elect Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner, November 2016

During the presidential transition, Kushner was said to be his father-in-law's "confidant,"[74] and one of Donald Trump's closest advisors, even more so than Trump's four adult children.[75] Trump was reported to have requested the top-secret security clearance for him to attend the presidential daily intelligence briefings as his staff-level companion, along with General Mike Flynn, who already had the clearance prior to his resignation.[76]

Kushner was reportedly an influential factor behind the firing of New Jersey governor Chris Christie as head of the transition team, as well as the dismissal from the Donald Trump transition team of anyone connected to Christie.[77][78] An anonymous source familiar with the transition told Politico, "Jared doesn't like Christie... He's always held [the prosecution of his father] against Christie."[79] Kushner told Forbes that the reports that he was involved in Christie's dismissal were false: "Six months ago, Governor Christie and I decided this election was much bigger than any differences we may have had in the past, and we worked very well together... I was not behind pushing out him or his people."[80]

Senior Advisor to the President

Kushner during the April 2017 Syrian missile strike operation

On January 9, 2017, Kushner was named Senior Advisor to the President[81] (formally, "Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor").[82] He consequently resigned as CEO of Kushner Companies, and as publisher of the Observer.[83]

After Donald Trump became President-elect, Kushner and his wife met with the Japanese prime minister and other Japanese officials, while his wife was conducting a licensing deal between her namesake clothing brand and a Japanese government-owned company.[84] His wife sat in on a meeting between her father, then-president-elect Donald Trump, and Japan's prime minister, Shinzō Abe.[85]

Kushner with President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2017

In late March 2017, Kushner was also given the new role of leading the "White House Office of American Innovation",[86][87] where Kushner reportedly has been focusing on improving governmental efforts with regard to Veterans Affairs, information-technology contracting, and the opioid crisis.[88] Kushner was involved in the sale of $100+ billion of arms to Saudi Arabia, and during a meeting with Saudi officials at the White House, he called Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson to ask for a lower price on a radar system to detect ballistic missiles.[89]

Kushner's business activities in China have drawn scrutiny for mixing government with business.[90][91][92] Kushner's investments in real estate and financial services have also drawn controversy for conflicts of interest.[93][94] In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that he had failed to disclose all required financial information in his security clearance applications, including that he owes $1 billion in loans.[40][95] During 2017, Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump made $82 million in outside income at the same time that they served as senior White House advisors.[96] In March 2020, the Associated Press reported that Kushner had sold stakes in a firm that had benefitted from the same Opportunity Zone tax breaks that Kushner pushed for as a senior White House advisor.[5]

In a statement, Abbe Lowell, Kushner's lawyer, admitted that Kushner used private e-mail for official White House business. No classified or privileged information was used on this account. During the campaign for the 2016 presidential election, Trump repeatedly criticized his opponent Hillary Clinton for her personal e-mail usage in her role as Secretary of State.[97]

In an HBO/Axios interview released in June 2019, Kushner denied that President Trump was a racist. When asked whether birther conspiracy theories about President Obama (which Trump pushed extensively for a number of years) were racist, Kushner did not answer, saying instead twice, "Look, I wasn't really involved in that."[98][99] In the interview, Kushner spoke of his own family's immigration history: "It's a great reminder of how great this country is."[99] In the same interview, he defended the Trump administration's decision to drastically reduce the number of refugees accepted by the United States (the lowest level in 40 years).[100]

Dedication ceremony of the Embassy of the United States in Jerusalem, May 2018

FIRST STEP Act

Kushner was a strong supporter within the Trump administration for the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act (FIRST STEP ACT, H.R. 5682) which President Trump signed into law in December 2018.[101][102][103][104] According to reporting by Axios in 2020, Trump expressed regrets in private about having followed Jared Kushner's lead in going through with the First Step Act.[105]

Middle East peace plan

Kushner is said to be the main architect of Trump's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Trump put Kushner in charge of brokering peace in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, despite the fact that Kushner had no foreign experience or experience in the Middle East.[106][107][108] On August 24, 2017, Kushner traveled to Israel to talk to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu[109] (with whom Kushner has longstanding personal links and family ties, causing Palestinians to distrust him[110][111]). He then traveled to Palestine to meet President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to restart a peace process in the Middle East.[109]

Donald Trump formally unveiled a plan authored by Kushner in a White House press conference alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 28, 2020; Palestinian representatives were not invited.[112] In an interview, Kushner said he had "been studying this now for three years", and that he had "read 25 books on it, I've spoken to every leader in the region, I've spoken to everyone who's been involved in this."[113] The plan has been characterized as requiring too few concessions from the Israelis and imposing too harsh requirements on the Palestinians.[114] Both the West Bank settlers' Yesha Council[115] and the Palestinian leadership rejected the plan: the former because it envisaged a Palestinian state,[115] the latter arguing it is too biased in favor of Israel.[112] The proposal gave American approval for Israel to annex its settlements in the West Bank.[116]

After Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, wrote a June 2020 opinion piece warning that annexation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would threaten better relations between Israel and the Arab world, Kushner saw an opportunity and stepped in to facilitate talks.[117][118] The talks led to the August establishment of diplomatic ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.[119][120] The agreement normalized what had long been informal relations between the two countries.[121] The Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement is also named the Abraham Accord.[122][123] The first commercial flight from Israel to the UAE arrived in Abu Dhabi with U.S.-Israeli delegation led by Kushner.[124]

COVID-19 pandemic actions and response

Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence and Peter Navarro during a coronavirus update briefing on April 2, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kushner was an influential advisor to President Trump, and shaped the administration's actions.[125][126] At Trump's order, Kushner set up what has been described as a "shadow task force," separate from the official coronavirus task force chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.[127][128] The Kushner operation was staffed by a dozen young volunteers from the private sector; they worked out of offices on the seventh floor of the Health and Human Services building.[125] Their first assignment was to facilitate the search for medical supplies and protective equipment, at task at which they received mixed reviews.[127][129] According to The Washington Post, numerous rudimentary initiatives proposed by Kushner interrupted the work of other government officials who were seeking to manage the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.[125] The New York Times reported that one way that Kushner was seeking advice on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak was to ask his brother's father-in-law, a physician, for recommendations. The physician then proceeded to crowdsource advice on a Facebook group for physicians.[130]

Early on during the outbreak, Kushner advised Trump that the media was exaggerating the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak; at the time, Trump downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus.[131] Kushner helped write the Oval Office address that President Trump gave to the nation on March 11, 2020, along with Trump's advisor Stephen Miller.[132] Drafts of the address were not shared with any of the staff working on the coronavirus task force or with the agencies dealing with the coronavirus response, and Kushner, Miller and Vice President Pence (who joined the writing process later on) were still working making edits to the draft shortly before Trump gave the address.[133] The Washington Post wrote that the address that Kushner, who had "zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause", helped write was "widely panned".[126] In the address, Trump blamed Europeans and the Chinese for the virus, describing the virus as a "foreign virus".[134] During the address, Trump inaccurately said "all travel from Europe" would be prohibited, and that the travel prohibitions would apply to goods.[135] The speech caused markets to plunge, as White House aides had to clarify what the actual policy was. European leaders said they were blindsided by the address.[135] The speech set off panic among Americans abroad who had to scramble to learn whether they could return to the United States and under what circumstances; this created chaos at airports in Europe and the United States.[136] Trump reportedly blamed Kushner for the widely panned address, telling aides that he should not have listened to Kushner.[133]

Kushner also helped put together a March 13 Rose Garden event where Trump falsely claimed that Google was "quickly developing" a website that could help test people for coronavirus.[126] Trump also overstated a project intended to set up testing sites across parking lots across the United States, taking the state and federal health care workers who oversee the project by surprise.[126] On March 30, 2020, The Atlantic reported that a website that Trump had said would help Americans to diagnose themselves and direct them to a nearby coronavirus testing site in a March 13 press conference had been a project between the government and Oscar Health, a company that Kushner had ties with. Kushner's brother, Joshua, co-founded and owns Oscar Health, and Kushner himself was a partial owner of the firm before joining the White House. The website was quickly scrapped.[137]

"...And the notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile; it's not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use." Comments by Jared Kushner that drew criticism.[138][139]

In April 2020, Kushner made a rare public appearance, when in the White House briefing room he defended the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.[140] In response to requests by state and local governments that the federal government distribute medical supplies to the states, Kushner said, "The notion of the federal stockpile is that it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use."[140] The Strategic National Stockpile page on the Public Health Emergency website was retconned on the same day to reflect this new interpretation of its mission.[141]

In late April 2020, Kushner described the administration's response to the coronavirus as a "a great success story."[142] During the pandemic, Kushner relied on a team of volunteers from consulting and private equity firms who had little relevant experience in dealing with a pandemic. Kushner described the volunteers as "true patriots." The team was intended to assist in procuring PPE, but the team struggled to do so.[143] The New York Times wrote that the search for supplies was "fumbling" and that "personal relationships and loyalty are often prized over governmental expertise, and private interests are granted extraordinary access and deference."[144] Kushner's volunteer team advised senior officials in New York that Yaron Oren-Pines, a Silicon Valley engineer, could produce 1,000 ventilators. New York officials assumed that the team had vetted him and gave him a $86 million contract to produce the ventilators; no ventilators were produced.[144][145]

In May 2020, Kushner reportedly told those involved in the coronavirus response that the coronavirus was under control and that there would not be a second wave. By June 2020, cases were surging in the United States.[146] It was revealed that businesses owned by the Kushner family obtained coronavirus relief, which raised concerns with potential conflicts of interests due to Kushner's White House role.[147]

In August 2020, when 170,000 had died from the coronavirus in the United States, Kushner reiterated his claim from April 2020 that the administration's response had been a "success story."[148]

Controversies

Allegations of nepotism

Kushner's appointment as Trump's senior advisor in the White House in January 2017 was questioned on the basis of a 1967 anti-nepotism law which forbids public officials from hiring family members, and explicitly one's son-in-law, in agencies or offices they oversee.[149] The law was passed in response to President John F. Kennedy's decision to appoint his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general in 1961.[150] However, on January 20, 2017, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion stating the anti-nepotism law does apply to appointments within the White House,[151][152] after Kushner's lawyer, Jamie Gorelick claimed the 1967 law does not apply to the White House because it is not an 'agency'.[153] Kushner was sworn in on January 22, 2017[154] and was given the office which is physically the closest to the Oval Office.[155]

His security clearance

Kushner and Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Iraqi defence minister Erfan al-Hiyali in Baghdad on April 3, 2017

On January 18, 2017, immediately after his appointment as senior advisor to President Trump, Kushner requested Top Secret security clearance,[156] using "Standard Form 86 (SF86): Questionnaire for National Security Positions".[157][158] The request omitted dozens of pertinent contacts with foreign officials, including the meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov.[156] Failure to disclose pertinent contacts can cause security clearances to be declined or revoked, and an intentional failure to disclose can result in imprisonment.[159] Kushner's lawyers said that the omissions were "an oversight",[160] and that "a member of [Kushner's] staff had prematurely hit the 'send' button" before the form was completed.[157]

By July 2017, Kushner had resubmitted his SF86, this time disclosing contacts with foreign nationals.[159] This was the first time that government officials were made aware of the June 2016 Trump campaign–Russian meeting and Kushner's role in it.[159]

On September 15, 2017, Carl Kline, the director of the personnel security office within the Executive Office of President Trump, recorded Kushner as having an interim Top Secret/SCI security clearance.[161] Kushner and his wife were among at least 48 officials granted interim clearance giving them access to sensitive compartmented information (SCI): detailed accounts of intelligence sources and methods.[162][163]

On February 27, 2018, White House chief of staff John Kelly downgraded Kushner's interim security clearance to "secret" status, along with other White House staffers working with interim security clearances.[164][165][166] White House sources said that part of the reason Kushner had not yet been granted permanent security clearance was that he was under investigation by Robert Mueller.[167]

Kushner finally received permanent Top Secret security clearance on May 23, 2018.[168][169] In January 2019, Trump told The New York Times that he had not intervened to grant Kushner's security clearances.[161] On February 8, 2019, Kushner's wife Ivanka also denied that Trump had intervened to grant her or Kushner's security clearances.[170][171] However, on February 28, 2019, CNN (citing three anonymous sources) and The New York Times (citing four anonymous sources) reported that in May 2018 Trump ordered Kelly to grant Kushner a top-secret clearance, which Kelly contemporaneously documented in an internal memo. Reportedly, this is the first time a U.S. president has intervened in such a way.[167]

Russia investigation

Kushner's contacts with Russian officials came under scrutiny as part of the larger federal investigation into Russian interference in the election.[172] Kushner has said he had four meetings with Russians during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition, and that none of those Russian contacts were improper.[173]

In June 2016, an agent of Emin Agalarov reportedly offered Donald Trump Jr., Kushner's brother-in-law, compromising information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government if he met with a lawyer connected to the Kremlin.[174] A meeting took place on June 9, 2016, and included Kushner, Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort, who was then chairman of the presidential campaign, who met with Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower.[175] According to Rinat Akhmetshin, who was also present at the meeting, Veselnitskaya claimed to have evidence of "violations of Russian law by a Democratic donor", and that the "Russian lawyer described her findings at the meeting and left a document about them with Trump Jr. and the others".[176] The Democratic National Committee cyber attacks were revealed later that week.[174]

Between April and November 2016, Kushner had two undisclosed phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.[177] (In May 2017, Kushner's attorney Jamie Gorelick told Reuters that Kushner had participated in "thousands of calls in this time period" and did not recall any with Kislyak.)[177] In December 2016, Kushner met with Kislyak.[156] That month, U.S. intelligence officials who were monitoring Kislyak reportedly overheard him relaying to Moscow a request from Kushner to establish a "secret and secure communications channel" with the Kremlin using Russian diplomatic facilities. Kislyak reportedly was "taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate – a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team".[178][179]

Also in December 2016, Kushner met with Sergey N. Gorkov, a trained Russian spy who then headed Vnesheconombank (VEB), a Russian state-owned bank.[156][180][181] Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that Kushner met with Gorkov briefly as part of his role in the transition, and as a diplomatic conduit to the State Department.[182] However, VEB has stated that Gorkov met with Kushner on a private matter concerning his family's real estate corporation, Kushner Companies, even though VEB has been under international sanctions since July 2014.[183]

In July 2017, Kushner appeared before both the House and Senate intelligence committees in closed session as part of their investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.[184] He also released a public statement.[185] In October 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee requested numerous documents from Kushner. Kushner's attorneys gave the committee many documents on November 3, but the committee followed up on November 16 with a request for many additional documents it said had not been produced.[186]

In early November 2017, Kushner was interviewed by investigators from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office. Reportedly the interview focused on former national security advisor Michael Flynn.[187] On December 1, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI, as part of a plea bargain. Bloomberg reported that Kushner is most likely the "senior member of the Trump transition team," mentioned in Flynn's plea documents, who is said to have ordered Flynn to contact Russia.[188]

President Trump, joined by Kushner and Netanyahu behind, signs the proclamation recognizing Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights, March 2019

Mueller is investigating meetings between Trump associates including Kushner and George Nader, an emissary representing the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. In August 2016, Nader offered help to the Trump presidential campaign.[189] In December 2016, Nader attended a New York meeting between the United Arab Emirates officials and Kushner, Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon.[190] Mueller also investigated Kushner's possible ties to Qatar, Israel and China.[191]

The transcript of Kushner's interview with FBI investigators was not publicly released in January 2020 as ordered by a federal judge, as the Justice Department stated it required a security review by an unnamed intelligence agency.[192] The transcript was released on February 3, redacted nearly in its entirety.[193][194]

In June 2019, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Community made a criminal referral of Kushner to federal prosecutors on suspicions that he misled the committee with his testimony.[195]

Conflicts of interest

While serving in the Trump administration, Kushner retained ownership of businesses, which drew criticism from government ethics experts who said it created conflicts of interest.[130]

After his appointment as Senior Advisor to Donald Trump (in January 2017), Kushner resigned as head of his family's real-estate firm, Kushner Companies, and partially divested himself of some of its assets, including his stake in 666 Fifth Avenue. However, he did not actually sell off his assets or set up a blind trust with outside management. Instead, he transferred ownership of some of his assets to his brother and to a trust overseen by his mother. The New York Times reported that Kushner managed to retain "the vast majority of his interest in Kushner Companies. His real estate holdings and other investments are worth as much as $761 million."[196] Disclosures he was required to make show that Kushner still receives millions of dollars a year in income from rent collected by his assorted real estate portfolio.[197]

After her father was elected president, global sales of Ivanka Trump merchandise surged.[198] On April 6, 2017, the same day that Kushner and Ivanka dined with Chinese president Xi Jinping and his wife at a dinner hosted by the president at Mar-a-Lago, the Chinese government provisionally approved three new trademarks for the Ivanka Trump brand[199] giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy.[198]

Usage of WhatsApp for White House duties

While a White House official, Kushner used WhatsApp to conduct government business. This raised concerns among cybersecurity experts who said this left his communications vulnerable to potential exploitation by foreign governments and hackers.[200] Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was reportedly one of the individuals that Kushner contacted through WhatsApp; in January 2020, UN investigators said that there was evidence that the bin Salman was involved in the hacking of Jeff Bezos's phone through WhatsApp communications, which led to warnings that Kushner should stop using WhatsApp.[201] Kushner reportedly used WhatsApp to communicate with his coronavirus team during March and April 2020.[202]

Personal life

Kushner with Ivanka and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in May 2017

Kushner has a younger brother, Joshua, and two sisters, Dara and Nicole.[203] He married Ivanka Trump in a Jewish ceremony on October 25, 2009. They had met in 2005 through mutual friends.[204][205][206] Kushner and his wife (who converted to Judaism in 2009[207]) are Modern Orthodox Jews, keep a kosher home, and observe the Jewish Shabbat.[208][209][210] They have three children, a daughter born in July 2011[211] and two sons, born in October 2013[212] and March 2016.[213]

Those who know Kushner say he has impeccable manners and that he never loses his temper, at least not in public. He is said to be very guarded. He grants few interviews, and when he does, he comes across as deliberately bland, as if he's trying to discourage interest in his activities.[214]

In 2004, Kushner's father pleaded guilty to eighteen felony counts of tax fraud, election violations, and witness tampering[215] - he retaliated against his own sister who was a cooperating witness in the case.[24] The case against Charles Kushner was prosecuted by Chris Christie, who later became Governor of New Jersey and, for a period was part of Donald Trump's election campaign team in 2016.[215] Christie subsequently claimed that Jared Kushner was responsible for having him fired as revenge for sending his father to prison.[216][217]

In 2017, federal disclosures suggested Kushner and his wife had assets worth at least $240 million, and as much as $740 million.[93][218] They also have an art collection, estimated to be worth millions, that was not mentioned in the financial disclosures initially,[219] and enjoy visiting art studios.[220] The United States Office of Government Ethics has said that the updated disclosures comply with the regulations and laws.[221]

Honors

Foreign honors

See also

References

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External links

Further reading

  • Ward, Vicky (2019). Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9781250185945.