Jared Kushner — America’s Crown Prince
He’s the President’s son-in-law, married to his daughter, Ivanka. He’s been put in charge of a whole bunch of stuff, but what do we really know about this shadowy figure who appears in nearly every photo of some presidential meeting.? His official title in the White House is Senior Advisor to the President, which is a bit nebulous. I decided to do some investigation into this boy wonder, who has been given some very sizable responsibilities, which I’ll get to shortly.
He was born into vast white privilege. His father Charles is a real-estate developer, and was CEO of Kushner Companies, LLC, the family business. Jared was accepted into Harvard, despite his high school counselors saying neither his grades nor SAT scores merited it. Prior to his application Charles “donated” $2.5 million to the school; you know it works. After his graduation in 2003 he went to NYU to study business and law. While he was there, in 2005, Charles was convicted on charges of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. On the latter, his brother-in-law had been cooperating with prosecutors, and Charles knew his penchant for prostitutes, so he hired one to film the encounter, then sent the tape to his own sister. He went to prison for two years.
Jared took control of the company at the tender age of 25, and one of his first investments was to buy The New York Observer, a failing newspaper. It did no better under his leadership, and now is online only. In 2007 he bought a building at 666 5th Avenue in Manhattan, prime real estate territory. He paid an unheard of $1.8 billion, by far the most ever paid for a building in NYC. Only six years ago it had sold for $500 million, a more realistic figure. In 2008 came the financial crisis, which caused rents to plummet. Since then, Jared has tried frantically to recover from this disastrous decision which put the family business at risk. He sold 49% of his stake in the building’s retail space. In 2011 the cash flow problems continued, and Jared worked with the lender to restructure the loan to prevent default. During 2015 and 2016 he sought a $500 million loan from a wealthy sheik in Qatar, and another loan from Chinese bank Anbang. The deal finally fell through in March 2017. There’s more, but I think you get the idea.
He is an observant Jew, and Ivanka converted before their wedding. This puts him and Stephen Miller, another presidential advisor, in the opposite camp from Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, both well-known for their anti-Semitism. Yep, there’s some real Shakespearean palace intrigue in the White House. Trump seems to like it that way.
Jared has always been fiercely loyal to his father, and seems to have an appetite for revenge. The prosecutor who put Charles in jail was then U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie. You may recall he was high up in the campaign team, and Trump wanted to name him as his VP running mate, until Jared persuaded him to pick Mike Pence. Christie sank lower and lower on the food chain, and was finally pushed out. The Qatar deal failed in March, Trump visited Saudi Arabia in May and the embargo of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt began June 5th. Did Jared have any influence there? Possibly.
To those who have known Jared, he has never shown any interest in foreign affairs. He also has no experience in politics. So Trump naturally depended on him for political and foreign affairs. Here are some of Jared’s duties:
— Solving America’s opioid epidemic.
— In charge of diplomacy with Mexico and China. Gee, I didn’t know Jared worked for the State Department.
— “Reimagining Veterans Affairs.”
— Negotiating peace in the Middle East.
— Reforming the criminal justice system.
— Reinventing the entire government. He heads the newly created White House Office of American Innovation. Its task, according to Kushner, is to make the entire government “run like a great American company.” I don’t like the sound of that at all.
And that’s just Monday! If you get the idea that he may be unqualified for any of these jobs, you may be right, but that’s not the point. If Trump has shown any kind of consistency, it’s for picking people who are least qualified for the most important positions. That’s because qualifications have nothing to do with it; Trump believes in rewarding loyalty. Jared was on the cover of Forbes right after the election, with the caption: “This Guy Got Trump Elected.” After the election, Charles resumed control of Kushner Companies, which has until 2019 to raise the needed $1.2 billion, again, to avoid default.
Jared was one of the people Donald Jr. invited by email to attend the meeting June 9th, 2016 with a Russian attorney, a former KGB officer, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. The meeting was in Trump Tower. In his Senate testimony this last July, he said he hardly noticed the email, even though the subject line said: “Re: Russia — Clinton — private and confidential.” When he filled out standard form SF-86 to obtain a security clearance, he forgot to mention the meeting, and had to amend the form. He also neglected to mention another meeting with Russians in December 2016, during the transition, when he suggested they create a private communications channel operating out of the Russian Embassy that would be undetectable to U.S. intelligence agencies. Damn! Isn’t that treason, or something? He has amended the form several times. He’s also amended his financial disclosure statement 39 times. I guess he keeps remembering details he had forgotten before. “I don’t recall” is one of the more popular responses in a trial or hearing.
It was Jared who recommended that Trump fire FBI Director James Comey. He also recommended Reince Priebus as the President’s Chief of Staff (now gone), and Corey Lewandowski as Press Secretary. Lewandowski only lasted a few weeks, and after assaulting a reporter, “resigned.”
Mysteriously, no one could remember ever having heard this guy speak. No one had any idea what his voice sounded like. That changed on June 20th, when he addressed an audience at the White House during Technology Week. You know, that new White House Office of American Innovation thing. It was pure amateur hour. He came off like a pimply teenager giving a speech in front of the class for the first time. And where does he get his shirts, the children’s department at K-Mart? He wore a plain white shirt with a tiny little collar. It just looked so cheap. I don’t know how a fashionista like Ivanka can let him appear in public like that.
In a Vanity Fair piece (Dec. 5, 2016) Emily Jane Fox wrote that Jared is considered an intellectual lightweight, and that he “has a history of jumping into situations with little experience, making risky calls, and coming out fine on the other end.” He’s an enigma, for sure. I can’t figure out if he’s a boy genius and criminal mastermind, or in way over his head. Or he could just be the luckiest guy in history. But lucky streaks have a nasty habit of coming to an end abruptly. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
Meanwhile, this man bears watching, and very closely, too.