Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner: The close adviser who may be wielding the greatest influence

In the Trump transition game of thrones, it's Kushner who may be feared the most

Click to follow
The Independent US

For a man who dislikes the spotlight, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump, is doing a good job of drawing attention to himself as the new power behind the President-elect’s throne. 

That he has Mr Trump’s ear perhaps more than anyone else has quickly become apparent. He is rumoured to have been the main force behind the ouster last week of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey as head of the transition team - he was replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence - and thereafter of others with ties to him, notably former Congressman Mike Rogers.

His motives for the “purge”, as some sources have termed it, would seem murky. One of Mr Kushner’s more traumatic experiences came in 2005 when his billionaire father, Charles Kushner, pled guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering and offering illegal campaign donations and found himself in prison for two years. The prosecutor was none other than Mr Christie. 

The case and its more lurid details were not quickly forgotten. The elder Kushner admitted setting up his bother-in-law with a prostitute, filming their liaison and then sending the tape to his sister in an effort to dissuade them both from testifying against him.

It was widely reported on Wednesday, meanwhile, that Mr Trump was considering requesting that Mr Kushner be given top-secret security clearance so he could join him and Mr Pence at their daily intelligence briefings. One problem: that might be in violation of a 1967 anti-nepotism statute that forbids presidents giving any official roles to their relatives.

That Mr Kushner, 35, has a wrought-iron bond with Mr Trump should be of little surprise. It helps of course, that he is the husband of his daughter, Ivanka. They married in 2009 and have three small children. Out of respect for his upbringing in northern New Jersey as an orthodox Jew - his grandparents fled the Holocaust to the United States - Ivanka herself converted to Judaism. 

But the life stories of both, though they are separated by 35 years, bear striking similarities. Both began their property development careers with lubricant provided by their billionaire developer fathers, Charles Kushner and Fred Trump. Never behind bars, the elder Trump nonetheless faced a federal lawsuit for alleged racial discrimination that was eventually settled. 

The help provided by the senior Kushner to his son included donating $2.5 million to Harvard University shortly before it gave a place to Jared, his not terrific school grades notwithstanding.

Then there’s their shared love for tall buildings. Mr Kushner, who has been the CEO of the Kushner Companies since 2008, is the owner of 666 Fifth Avenue, a skyscraper that stands just a few blocks from Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, where the transition dramas are now playing out. In 2006, he purchased the New York Observer, a paper printed on pink once beloved by New York’s liberal elite that saw its fortunes decline under his stewardship. He closed its print edition this month.

Mr Trump, who has hinted he may be happier basing himself even as president in Manhattan than at the White House, did not get elected by respecting the norms of politics. Whether he can get around the anti-nepotism law to keep his son-in-law close at hand remains to be seen. It is not even clear that he would be allowed to retain him in a casual advisor capacity.

He denied reports that he was seeking security clearances for Mr Kushner or indeed for his adult children - Ivanka and her brothers, Eric and Donald Jr - via his favourite medium, Twitter, on Wednesday morning. “I am not trying to get ‘top level security clearance’ for my children,” he posted. “This was a typically false news story”.

So far the only official position conferred on Mr Kushner has been as a member of the Trump transition team alongside Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. That alone, however, was enough to raise eyebrows in Washington and beyond as questions swirled over where the younger generation of Trumps will fit in - as de facto advisors in the White House or as the team that will run Trump’s business empire while he is president. Or a combination of both.

While his distinctly low-key personality might help Mr Kushner remain under the media radar, any perception that he is running a vendetta against Mr Christie will do nothing to enhance his standing. Particularly troubling, even to some Republicans, was the exit this week of Congressman Rogers, who had been expected to help the President-elect shape his foreign policy team.

Mr Rogers himself voiced his suspicions in an interview on Tuesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

"Sometimes in politics ... there are people who are in and people who are out. And the people who have been asked to move on have some relationship with Chris Christie,“ Mr Rogers confirmed. ”And so there's a whole series of about five of them that fit that criteria that were asked to leave in the last few days.”

Comments