Who is Tycoon Jared Kushner? Profile of Ivanka Trump's husband and senior adviser to the President

20th JANUARY 2017 | 
Public Opinions International

Donald Trumphas angrily batted away suggestions that he is trying to get top-secret security clearance for his children, describing it as "a typically false news story".

But that doesn't rule out his son-in-law Jared Kushner - the smiling, Sphinx-like presence that propelled Mr Trump to victory, and is now being seen as the kingmaker in the president's administration.

Mr Kushner, 35, was named by Mr Trump alongside retired general Michael Flynn as his staff-level companions for the daily presidential briefings.

Mr Flynn has the necessary security clearance, but Mr Kushner needs to have his approved - something which could take weeks.

Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump's campaign manager, was asked about security clearance on Wednesday and did not deny the request had been made.

"I'm not aware of that, I just don't know," she said.

But it chimes with reports that Mr Kushner is playing a hugely influential role behind the scenes - ousting those loyal to Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who prosecuted Mr Kushner's father for tax evasion, and ushering in people he believes to be more suitable.

It was reportedly Mr Kushner and his wife Ivanka, Mr Trump's daughter, who persuaded Mr Trump to make Reince Priebus his chief of staff. It was also Mr Kushner who was said to have convinced Mr Trump to make Mike Pence the vice president, instead of Mr Christie.

Mr Kushner is also said to have been behind the removal of Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's previous campaign manager, who was replaced in August by Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

In the final anxious days of the campaign, Mr Trump was said to have taken comfort in “the soothing, whispery voice of his son-in-law”, who now appears to be playing a far more significant role than soother-in-chief.

Last week, Mr Kushner was seen strolling in the White House gardens – one of a handful of people chosen by the president-elect to join him on his inaugural visit – and was seen deep in conversation with Denis McDonough, Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Appointing Mr Kushner to Cabinet could be considered a breach of a 1967 act, the Nepotism Statute, which states that presidents and other executive office holders cannot appoint their relatives to positions under them.

Before that, there had been plenty of examples of presidents with relatives in their government, perhaps most notably Bobby Kennedy serving as his brother's attorney-general.  But lawyers have pointed out that the statute is both untested, and potentially unconstitutional - and in any case, has probably been breached already – by Bill Clinton’s delegating his wife to work on healthcare while he was president.

And Mr Kushner could serve as an adviser without breaking the law.

On the face of it, Mr Kushner would appear to be the antithesis of his father-in-law. He has almost 11,000 Twitter followers but has never tweeted, having signed up in April 2009.

Vanity Fair described him as “the anti-Trump: well-mannered, reticent, self-effacing”.

He is one of four siblings born in New Jersey to Charles and Seryl, brought up in the Orthodox Jewish tradition that Mrs Kushner grew up in. His grandparents, Joseph and Rae, survived the Holocaust in Poland and eventually emigrated to the US. Joseph, a carpenter, worked on construction sites until he earned enough money to develop plots of land with partners.

Charles Kushner took the fledgling construction business and ran with it. By the time Jared was born, the family was wealthy and his parents went on to become among the most prominent funders of Democratic politicians on the East Coast.

Jared Kushner went to Harvard – his father gave a $2.5 million donation. 

Having been deeply involved in his father’s business, he retained his focus and, as a sideline, he bought buildings in nearby Somerville, converted them into flats and sold them for a reported profit of more than $20 million.

In 2005, however, the gilded family crashed.

Jared Kushner was 24 when his father pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering and offering illegal campaign donations. 

The charges stemmed from an investigation into donations made to then-New Jersey governor Jim McGreevy’s campaign.

The case became particularly lurid when Charles Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law - filming the encounter and sending it to the man's wife, his sister, who he felt was working against him.

Charles Kushner was sentenced to two years in prison, paroled after one.

Mr Christie, then New Jersey’s attorney general, prosecuted Charles Kushner. He had previously sought a longer sentence, claiming Kushner had failed to show “acceptance of responsibility”.

Now Mr Christie has lost out on the vice-presidential slot despite reportedly having been assured by Mr Trump that it would be his, and received a further blow on Friday when he was  removed as chairman of Mr Trump’s transition effort. 

While Mr Christie’s term in New Jersey has been scandal-plagued, that never seemed to trouble Mr Trump in the past, leading to speculation that it is Mr Kushner’s influence that has seen him relegated to the outskirts of Mr Trump’s inner circle.

When his father was jailed, Jared Kushner stepped in to run the family businesses.

In 2006, he bought the New York Observer, developing a side interest in publishing. He sought  advice from Rupert Murdoch, who would go on to become a friend.

But there was a positive side to the tough times. In 2007, a property developer he knew arranged a business lunch with someone he thought may be useful to him: Ivanka Trump. 

“They very innocently set us up thinking that our only interest in one another would be transactional,” she told Vogue. The pair dated but split up. Then Wendi Deng, Mr Murdoch’s then-wife, reportedly invited him on the family’s yacht – only for him to find Miss Trump had been invited as well.

They were reunited and married in 2009.

And, until 2015, the couple lived a golden existence; friends with Chelsea Clinton and her husband, and spending time with Mr Kushner’s brother Josh, an online entrepreneur who is the long-term boyfriend of Victoria’s Secret supermodel Karlie Kloss. 

They live in an elegant, art-filled flat on Park Lane and now have three photogenic children – Arabella, now five; Joseph, three, and Theodore, born in March.

When Mr Trump announced he was running for president, in June 2015, Mr Kushner became interested in the campaign – in particular, it is said, when he attended a rally and saw the passion of Mr Trump’s followers.

And Mr Trump became increasingly impressed by his son-in-law. 

Mr Kushner has liaised with dozens of influential figures, including Henry Kissinger, Paul Ryan, Rupert Murdoch, and, until recently, Roger Ailes.

But his public words were few. Indeed, his only intervention came when Mr Trump’s team was excoriated for using a symbol of a star, with money and the words “Crooked Hillary” – the picture was seen as anti-Semitic and deeply offensive. 

In response to the row, Mr Kushner published a letter titled “The Donald Trump I Know”. He said that the tweet was an innocent mistake. 

“America faces serious challenges,” he wrote. “A broken economy, terrorism, gaping trade deficits. . . Intolerance should be added to that list. I’m confident that my father-in-law. . . will be successful tackling these challenges.”

It seems likely that Mr Kushner will now be closely involved in helping him try to do just that.


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