Kush­ner to wield clout

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

After win­ning a pri­mary elec­tion that ef­fec­tively clinched the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, Don­ald Trump paused to laud a boy­ish-look­ing 35-year-old who ul­ti­mately proved to be an in­dis­pens­able fig­ure on the path to the White House. “Hon­estly, Jared is a very suc­cess­ful real es­tate per­son. But I ac­tu­ally think he likes pol­i­tics more than he likes real es­tate, ”Trump said of his son-in-law Jared Kush­ner, stand­ing to his right dur­ing a vic­tory speech after the In­di­ana party pri­mary elec­tion in May. “But he’s very good at pol­i­tics.”

Kush­ner, the slen­der, clean-cut New Jer­sey real es­tate scion who mar­ried Trump’s daugh­ter Ivanka in 2009, helped guide the Repub­li­can Trump to vic­tory last week over Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and is poised to re­main an influential ad­viser dur­ing his pres­i­dency. Kush­ner emerged as an im­por­tant voice early in Trump’s cam­paign, launched in June 2015. He was in­volved in al­most ev­ery as­pect of Trump’s cam­paign, of­fer­ing ad­vice on key per­son­nel de­ci­sions, strat­egy, speeches, fundrais­ing and other ar­eas.

Late in the cam­paign, he be­gan lay­ing the ground­work for a pos­si­ble Trump-run tele­vi­sion net­work, in the event his fa­ther-in-law lost, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter. Kush­ner spear­heads his fam­ily’s real es­tate devel­op­ment com­pany, Kush­ner Com­pa­nies, and is the pub­lisher of the New York Ob­server weekly news­pa­per, which he ac­quired at age 25. While a fed­eral anti-nepo­tism law pro­hibits a pres­i­dent from hir­ing fam­ily mem­bers to serve in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Kush­ner is set to re­main a key in­sider and trusted con­fi­dant.

Reince Priebus, ap­pointed Trump’s White House chief of staff on Sun­day, told NBC’s “To­day” show on Mon­day that Kush­ner “ob­vi­ously” will be very in­volved in de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Kush­ner serves on Trump’s tran­si­tion ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

Fol­low­ing Fa­ther’s Foot­steps

Kush­ner is a Har­vard grad­u­ate with a New York Univer­sity law de­gree and a mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion. Like Trump, Kush­ner fol­lowed in the foot­steps of a real es­tate pow­erhouse fa­ther. His fa­ther, Charles Kush­ner, is a real es­tate de­vel­oper, phi­lan­thropist and ma­jor Demo­cratic donor whose rep­u­ta­tion was left in tat­ters after a lurid crim­i­nal case. He was sen­tenced to two years in prison after plead­ing guilty in 2004 to 18 counts of tax eva­sion, wit­ness tam­per­ing and mak­ing un­law­ful cam­paign do­na­tions.

Dur­ing the case, he ad­mit­ted to smear­ing his brother-in-law, who had co­op­er­ated with pros­e­cu­tors, by hir­ing a pros­ti­tute to have sex with him in a mo­tel room, then send­ing a se­cretly recorded video of the en­counter to the man’s wife, Charles Kush­ner’s own sis­ter. In an un­usual twist, the man who pros­e­cuted Charles Kush­ner was Chris Christie, now the gover­nor of New Jer­sey, who also has served as an ad­viser to Trump. Kush­ner is an Or­tho­dox Jew whose wife, Ivanka, con­verted to Ju­daism be­fore they mar­ried. The fam­ily keeps kosher, ob­serves the Sab­bath and at­tends an up­scale syn­a­gogue on New York’s Up­per East Side. Steve Ban­non, for­mer head of the rightwing Bre­it­bart News web­site, took a lead­er­ship post in the cam­paign in Au­gust after it be­came clear that Trump, his chil­dren and Kush­ner trusted his ad­vice and anal­y­sis, a source said at the time. Bre­it­bart News is closely as­so­ci­ated with the “alt-right” move­ment, a loose on­line group of white su­prem­a­cists, anti-Semites and oth­ers op­posed to mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

Trump, who takes of­fice on Jan 20, named Ban­non as chief strate­gist and senior coun­selor on Sun­day. Dana Schwartz, a Jewish re­porter for Kush­ner’s news­pa­per, in July crit­i­cized Trump for his Twit­ter post ac­cus­ing Clin­ton of cor­rup­tion us­ing a Star of David image and a back­ground of $100 bills. Schwartz then wrote an open let­ter to Kush­ner after be­ing del­uged with an­tiSemitic tweets. Schwartz asked Kush­ner, “how do you al­low this? Be­cause, Mr Kush­ner, you are al­low­ing this . ... When you stand silent and smil­ing in the back­ground, his Jewish son-in-law, you’re giv­ing his most hate­ful sup­port­ers tacit ap­proval.”

Kush­ner re­sponded by writ­ing in the Ob­server, “In my opin­ion, ac­cu­sa­tions like ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semite’ are be­ing thrown around with a care­less­ness that risks ren­der­ing these words mean­ing­less.” He went on to write that his grand­mother and grand­fa­ther sur­vived the Nazi Holo­caust while other rel­a­tives did not. “I know the dif­fer­ence be­tween ac­tual, dan­ger­ous in­tol­er­ance ver­sus these la­bels that get tossed around in an ef­fort to score po­lit­i­cal points,” Kush­ner wrote.

Kush­ner be­came a ma­jor player in real es­tate in his mid-20s, after his fa­ther’s con­vic­tion. At 26, he or­ches­trated what was the most-ex­pen­sive sin­gle-build­ing pur­chase in US his­tory in 2006 with the $1.8 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of a 41-storey sky­scraper at 666 Fifth Av­enue in Man­hat­tan. Kush­ner told The Real Deal trade mag­a­zine after­ward, “In New York, you have to act quickly, or else you get left in the dust.”

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