“He’s very un­re­mark­able in his pres­ence. She, on the other hand, is quite re­mark­able. It was a good move for him”

Jared Kush­ner’s Long Game

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS - By Devin Leonard

As the fuzzy strains of the Bea­tles’ Rev­o­lu­tion filled the room, Don­ald Trump took the stage on Feb. 9 in Manch­ester, N.H., to cel­e­brate his vic­tory in the state’s Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. Be­fore re­it­er­at­ing his cam­paign prom­ises to do away with Oba­macare, con­struct a wall along Amer­ica’s border with Mex­ico, and re­build the na­tion’s mil­i­tary so that “no­body is go­ing to mess with us, be­lieve me, no­body,” Trump thanked his fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing his daugh­ter Ivanka, who stood be­side him in an el­e­gant black dress with a white floral print, and her hus­band, the lanky, boy­ish New York real es­tate de­vel­oper and news­pa­per pub­lisher, Jared Kush­ner.

“Jared is a very, very suc­cess­ful real es­tate en­tre­pre­neur in Man­hat­tan,” Trump proudly de­clared. “But he likes this bet­ter than real es­tate, I think.” By this, Trump clearly meant pol­i­tics. Ivanka beamed like a guest on a late-night talk show. Kush­ner grinned sheep­ishly, as if he were mildly em­bar­rassed by his fa­ther-in-law.

Kush­ner, 35, has be­come a fre­quent pres­ence at Trump’s cam­paign events and a mem­ber of the can­di­date’s in­ner cir­cle. In his ef­fort to por­tray him­self as a staunch sup­porter of Is­rael, Trump likes to men­tion that he has Jewish grand­chil­dren. He has Kush­ner to thank for that. When Ivanka Trump and Jared Kush­ner mar­ried in 2009, Ivanka con­verted to Ju­daism. “Give Trump some credit,” says Shmuley Boteach, a New Jer­sey Jewish leader and Jerusalem Post colum­nist who calls him­self “Amer­ica’s Rabbi.” “I mean, he’s got a Jewish daugh­ter. He has ortho­dox Jewish grand­chil­dren. He could eas­ily have said when Ivanka was mar­ry­ing Jared and go­ing through the rig­or­ous Jewish con­ver­sion process, ‘You know, you have a fa­mous last name. You’re a beau­ti­ful, fa­mous woman. Do you need this?’ ”

Kush­ner’s in­volve­ment in his fa­ther-in-law’s un­ex­pect­edly suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial cam­paign is the lat­est step in a rapid as­cent. He be­gan mak­ing ma­jor de­ci­sions at his fam­ily’s real es­tate com­pany, then based in Florham Park, N.J., when he was 23 in 2004, around the time his fa­ther, a prom­i­nent Demo­cratic fundraiser and aspir­ing king­maker, pleaded guilty to tax fraud, mis­lead­ing fed­eral elec­tion of­fi­cials, and re­tal­i­at­ing against a wit­ness. The younger Kush­ner ex­panded the business, pur­chas­ing al­most $7 bil­lion in prop­erty in less than a decade, much of it in New York City.

A decade ago he bought the New York Ob­server, at the time a money-los­ing but in­flu­en­tial news­pa­per known for its dishy, with­er­ing cov­er­age of the city’s bil­lion­aire class that con­ferred on Kush­ner a bit of the re­flected glow of the peach-col­ored broad­sheet. “Jared un­der­stands be­ing a news­pa­per owner moves you into a dif­fer­ent league,” says Mitchell Moss, a pro­fes­sor of ur­ban pol­icy and plan­ning at New York Univer­sity and an ac­quain­tance of Kush­ner’s. “Politi­cians have to cul­ti­vate you. The elite come to you for at­ten­tion, as op­posed to you go­ing to them. It re­verses the re­la­tion­ship.”

It didn’t hurt that Kush­ner mar­ried into one of the city’s most fa­mous real es­tate dy­nas­ties. By all ac­counts, Kush­ner has a warm re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther-in-law. If Trump, now the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, wins the gen­eral elec­tion, Kush­ner will be a reg­u­lar White House vis­i­tor if for no other rea­son than he, his wife, and their three young chil­dren will be fre­quent din­ner guests.

My­ers Mer­mel, man­ag­ing part­ner of Mer­mel & McLain Man­age­ment, a New York real es­tate de­vel­op­ment firm, and a friend of Kush­ner’s, sees him as a con­tem­po­rary Jack Kennedy, the at­trac­tive son of a rich fam­ily with the re­sources to be­come a force be­hind the scenes in Washington and even a po­ten­tial can­di­date for na­tional of­fice. “He has a beau­ti­ful, bril­liant wife,” says Mer­mel, a Trump booster. “He is clearly a man of faith. These are all val­ues that con­tra­dict the neg­a­tive im­age put forth by the Repub­li­can Party as New York val­ues. He has the val­ues that the Repub­li­can Party es­pouses.”

Peo­ple who think highly of Kush­ner, and those who don’t, all talk about his im­pec­ca­ble man­ners. They say he never loses his tem­per, at least not in pub­lic. He’s un­fail­ingly po­lite. He re­mem­bers names and opens car doors for peo­ple. “He’s very hum­ble and calm, al­ways,” says Asher Abehsera, Kush­ner’s part­ner in three real es­tate projects in Brook­lyn. Kush­ner is also ex­tremely guarded. He grants few in­ter­views, and when he does speak for at­tri­bu­tion, he of­ten comes across as pur­pose­fully bland, as if he’s try­ing to dis­cour­age in­ter­est in his ac­tiv­i­ties—or him­self.

Yet Kush­ner has had an event­ful life. The way to best un­der­stand him is through his fa­ther, with whom he had an un­usual ap­pren­tice­ship. Charles Kush­ner is a flam­boy­ant New Jer­sey de­vel­oper who built the Kush­ner Cos., his fam­ily’s business, into a bil­lion-dol­lar op­er­a­tion with more than 25,000 apart­ments in the North­east. Like his son, the el­der Kush­ner sought in­flu­ence, giv­ing gen­er­ously to Democrats, such as for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and for­mer New Jer­sey Gov­er­nor James McGreevey, and also for the oc­ca­sional Repub­li­can, such as for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph Gi­u­liani.

Af­ter McGreevey won the 2001 gu­ber­na­to­rial race with Charles’s help, McGreevey re­warded his top fundraiser by ap­point­ing him to the board of the Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jer­sey, which con­trols the three ma­jor air­ports in the re­gion along with many of its bridges and tun­nels, and has long been a source of jobs and con­tracts for the po­lit­i­cally wired. It was a plum po­si­tion, but Kush­ner didn’t hold it long.

In 2003, the Ne­wark Star-Ledger re­ported that Kush­ner had got­ten into an an­gry con­fronta­tion with a state se­na­tor from At­lantic City at a wed­ding. The pa­per said Kush­ner was up­set about the se­na­tor’s de­mand that he ap­pear in Tren­ton to an­swer ques­tions about al­le­ga­tions that he’d made il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. “He was go­ing to have his way, even if it meant hav­ing an ugly spat in the pa­pers,” says Micah Ras­mussen, McGreevey’s press sec­re­tary at the time, who fielded ques­tions about the in­ci­dent.

In 2004, how­ever, Kush­ner ad­mit­ted be­fore a fed­eral judge in Ne­wark that he’d con­trib­uted more than $385,000 in the name of some of his business part­ners with­out their ap­proval. He also con­fessed to mis­lead­ing fed­eral elec­tion of­fi­cials about it and ar­rang­ing for his brother-in-law to be video­taped with a pros­ti­tute in a New Jer­sey mo­tel to pun­ish his sis­ter for

co­op­er­at­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “It was like a So­pra­nos episode,” re­calls Jeff Tit­tel, di­rec­tor of the New Jer­sey Sierra Club and a long­time foe.

The se­nior Kush­ner was sen­tenced to two years in prison. By then, his son had al­ready as­sumed a lead­er­ship role in the com­pany. Al­though he was only 23, Jared had grown up go­ing to con­struc­tion sites with Charles. While at­tend­ing Har­vard, he bought and man­aged apart­ments in Somerville, Mass., just out­side Bos­ton. “I re­mem­ber him con­stantly be­ing on the phone and work­ing on project de­vel­op­ment and meet­ing con­struc­tion guys,” says Nitin Saigal, who lived with Kush­ner for three years in col­lege and later roomed with him in New York. While an un­der­grad­u­ate at Har­vard, Kush­ner did a sum­mer in­tern­ship at SL Green Realty, one of New York’s largest com­mer­cial prop­erty own­ers, where he worked on deals. “It was pretty ap­par­ent way back then that this was a special young man who was go­ing to be go­ing places,” says Marc Hol­l­i­day, SL Green’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer.

Once he be­came CEO of the fam­ily business, the younger Kush­ner shifted its fo­cus from New Jer­sey to New York. “He knew early in his ca­reer that the way to be­come im­por­tant was to get out of Jer­sey and be­come a Man­hat­tan de­vel­oper,” says NYU’s Moss. Kush­ner had no pro­file in the city, but that changed in 2006 when he bought the Ob­server for what was widely re­ported to be $10 mil­lion. “Jared saw it as a way to have a voice in New York,” says Bob Som­mer, who was pres­i­dent of Ob­server Me­dia from 2007 to 2009. “It helped set him up as a se­ri­ous player.”

In 2007, Kush­ner paid $1.8 bil­lion for 666 Fifth Ave., an alu­minum-jack­eted of­fice tower that takes up an en­tire block front between 52nd and 53rd streets in Man­hat­tan, near Rock­e­feller Cen­ter. At the time it was the high­est price ever paid for a sin­gle build­ing in New York. Kush­ner didn’t put down much of his own money. He fi­nanced the deal with a $1.2 bil­lion loan from Bar­clays Cap­i­tal and an ad­di­tional $535 mil­lion of short­term debt. It was a lot of lever­age, but many real es­tate in­vestors were bor­row­ing heav­ily at the time. This deal, along with the pur­chase of the Ob­server, es­tab­lished Kush­ner as a force in Man­hat­tan. When he ap­peared on CNBC, an an­chor old enough to be his fa­ther was as­ton­ished. “You’re in your 20s, and you’re a mogul al­ready!”

“You’re us­ing that term very loosely,” Kush­ner protested in a soft voice.

Kush­ner mar­ried Ivanka Trump in Oc­to­ber 2009 at the Trump Na­tional Golf Club in Bed­min­ster, N.J. It was the merger of two prom­i­nent real es­tate fam­i­lies and was at­tended by movie stars such as Rus­sell Crowe and Natalie Port­man, tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties like Bar­bara Wal­ters and Regis Philbin, and politi­cians such as Gi­u­liani and An­drew Cuomo, now the gov­er­nor of New York. With his glam­orous new wife, Kush­ner be­came a sta­ple in the gos­sip col­umns and even showed up in the pages of Us Weekly and Vogue. “He’s very un­re­mark­able in his pres­ence,” says David Pa­trick Columbia, co-founder of the web­site New York So­cial Diary. “She, on the other hand, is quite re­mark­able. It was a good move for him.” The cou­ple so­cial­ized with Ru­pert Mur­doch and Ron­ald Perel­man. They made the rounds at fancy par­ties like the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art’s Cos­tume In­sti­tute gala. Kush­ner also threw some glitzy par­ties of his own, which the Ob­server du­ti­fully cov­ered.

When the econ­omy col­lapsed in 2008, of­fice rents tum­bled in Man­hat­tan, and it be­came clear that Kush­ner had overpaid for his tro­phy prop­erty on Fifth Av­enue, which was now es­ti­mated to be worth less than its debt. He man­aged to pay off the short-term por­tion by sell­ing 49 per­cent of the re­tail space for $525 mil­lion to a part­ner­ship that in­cluded the Car­lyle Group. But vul­tures still cir­cled his shiny tower. In­vestors in dis­tressed real es­tate such as Colony Cap­i­tal and Vor­nado Realty Trust and the hedge fund Cer­berus Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment bought por­tions of Kush­ner’s debt, hop­ing to po­si­tion them­selves ei­ther to win the build­ing in a fore­clo­sure or get Kush­ner to buy them out.

Kush­ner tried to make up for his weak fi­nan­cial po­si­tion with po­litesse. He flew to Cal­i­for­nia in 2009 to see Thomas Barrack, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Colony Cap­i­tal. Barrack ex­pected Kush­ner to walk in with “17 at­tor­neys,” ready to fight. That might have suited Kush­ner’s fa­ther, but his son was more diplo­matic. He showed up at Barrack’s of­fice by him­self. “He didn’t have a piece of pa­per,” Barrack says. “He didn’t have a pen. He said, ‘I just want a lit­tle bit of time to ex­plain my sit­u­a­tions and my thoughts.’ ”

Ul­ti­mately, Kush­ner was able to buy time un­til the mar­ket re­cov­ered. He ended up part­ing with 49 per­cent of his re­main­ing stake in the tower to Vor­nado for a mere $80 mil­lion, but he re­tained con­trol of his of­fice build­ing.

Since then, Kush­ner has of­ten in­vested with part­ners, putting less of his fam­ily’s money at risk. He’s cho­sen less pricey ar­eas of the city like the East Vil­lage, Queens, and Brook­lyn. He con­structed six lux­ury apart­ments in SoHo on top of the his­toric Puck Build­ing, for­mer home of the 19th cen­tury satir­i­cal mag­a­zine. “It’s a gor­geous, mag­i­cal build­ing,” Kush­ner told the New York Times in 2013, sound­ing like his fa­ther-in-law. “But I wanted it to be­come the most in­cred­i­ble that it could be, let it re­al­ize its full po­ten­tial.” He re­cently sold one of the apart­ments for $28 mil­lion, a neigh­bor­hood record.

“You’re in your 20s, and you’re a mogul al­ready!”

The same year, Kush­ner and two part­ners paid $240 mil­lion for a fac­tory-like com­plex in Brook­lyn where the Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses once pub­lished the Watch­tower. They’re now trans­form­ing it into a home for ten­ants like Etsy, the on­line mar­ket­place for ar­ti­sanal goods, and WeWork, a startup that bills it­self as “the phys­i­cal so­cial net­work,” rent­ing of­fice space to con­tract work­ers and free­lancers. “I find Jared to be one of the most so­phis­ti­cated real es­tate de­vel­op­ers on earth,” says Adam Neu­mann, WeWork’s co-founder. To hear Neu­mann tell it, Kush­ner is also the most well-man­nered. “A lot of times when I’m with Jared, I take cues from his be­hav­ior just to learn how to act,” he says. “You know, just to act a lit­tle bit bet­ter my­self be­cause it’s al­ways good to learn.” On May 2, Kush­ner and three part­ners fi­nal­ized a $700 mil­lion deal to pur­chase more prop­erty in Brook­lyn from the Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses, where they hope to de­velop an­other tech-ori­ented cam­pus.

The New York Post re­ported last year that Kush­ner and Vor­nado have a plan to turn 666 Fifth Ave. into a “1,400foot ver­ti­cal mall, hotel, and res­i­den­tial tower.” It’s an am­bi­tious project, but Gabby War­shawer, di­rec­tor of re­search for Ci­tyRealty, says the mar­ket for su­per­lux­ury con­do­mini­ums has cooled in re­cent months. “It would be a very ex­pen­sive build­ing be­cause it would have un­ob­structed Cen­tral Park views,” she says. “But there are a lot of ques­tions right now about whether there is an over­sup­ply in that area at very, very high price points.” Then again, Kush­ner could keep the project on the draw­ing boards un­til the next real es­tate uptick. In the mean­time, he runs his business out of an of­fice in the tower with its own roof gar­den. Peo­ple who visit some­times run into Kush­ner’s fa­ther, who re­mains one of his son’s most trusted ad­vis­ers.

Un­der Arthur Carter, the Ob­server’s pre­vi­ous owner and a for­mer in­vest­ment banker, the pa­per lost an es­ti­mated $2 mil­lion a year. Even so, Carter en­joyed pub­lish­ing a pa­per that tweaked the rich peo­ple with whom he rubbed shoul­ders. The pa­per reg­u­larly shot rhetor­i­cal spit­balls at Don­ald Trump. “I called him the prince of swine,” says Michael Thomas, who wrote a col­umn called “The Mi­das Watch” in the pa­per for al­most two decades. The Ob­server’s re­porters and colum­nist were egged on by the late Peter Ka­plan, its long­time ed­i­tor-inchief. He ser­mo­nized about how sto­ries needed to have he­roes and vil­lains and lapsed into long si­lences if he was search­ing for the right word or had lost his train of thought. (I was a staff writer at the Ob­server from 1996 to 1999. I also wrote a jazz col­umn for the pa­per in 2009.)

A spokesman for Kush­ner says he trans­formed the Ob­server into a prof­itable business with a higher editorial bud­get and a rapidly grow­ing Web au­di­ence. How­ever, Kush­ner didn’t ap­pear to en­joy us­ing the Ob­server to af­flict the com­fort­able as had Carter and Ka­plan. For­mer Ob­server staffers say he com­plained— po­litely, of course—when the pa­per wrote un­flat­ter­ingly about his friends. They say he was also per­turbed when the pa­per didn’t re­port as harshly as he might have liked on his fam­ily’s old foes in New Jer­sey, such as Chris Christie, who had pros­e­cuted his fa­ther as a U.S. at­tor­ney and was elected gov­er­nor in 2009.

Af­ter Ka­plan’s de­par­ture in 2009, a re­volv­ing mast­head of edi­tors strug­gled to please the pa­per’s owner. In 2011, Kush­ner hired El­iz­a­beth Spiers, found­ing ed­i­tor of Gawker, a cor­ro­sive web­site that made the Ob­server seem like the Chris­tian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor by com­par­i­son, to give the pa­per a much­needed jolt. Soon af­ter she ar­rived, how­ever, Trump be­gan toy­ing with the idea of run­ning for pres­i­dent. He was no longer just an­other nar­cis­sis­tic New York char­ac­ter. With his eye on the White House, he trans­formed him­self into the most vo­cal fig­ure in the far right’s birther move­ment.

This was ob­vi­ously a story the Ob­server had to cover, but how? When it came to his fa­ther-in-law, Kush­ner had dif­fi­culty keep­ing his com­po­sure. Spiers didn’t re­spond to sev­eral in­ter­view re­quests, but she dis­cussed her ex­pe­ri­ence at the pa­per ear­lier this year in an in­ter­view on Story

in a Bot­tle, a tech-ori­ented pod­cast. Spiers said she’d had nu­mer­ous fights with Kush­ner about the pa­per’s Trump cov­er­age, which he wanted to be “neu­tral.” Once, she said, she left the door to her of­fice open in the mid­dle of a scream­ing match on the tele­phone be­cause she thought it might be a good thing for the re­porters to hear. She con­sid­ered re­sign­ing, but then Trump aban­doned his quest, and the pa­per no longer needed to cover him as as­sid­u­ously. A Kush­ner spokesman dis­putes her ac­count.

That’s not to say that

Kush­ner didn’t con­tinue to be a pres­ence in the news­room. For­mer Ob­server staffers say he pressed first one re­porter and then an­other to pur­sue a neg­a­tive story about an­other wealthy real es­tate fig­ure and even ac­com­pa­nied them to a meet­ing with a source whom he promised had some juicy in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, the source backed out, and the story was never com­pleted. A Kush­ner spokesman says it was the source and not the pub­lisher who orig­i­nally sug­gested the story. Spiers left in 2012.

Kush­ner now had to find yet an­other ed­i­tor-in-chief. In Jan­uary 2013 he brought in some­one who would stick around. His name was Ken Kur­son. Most re­cently, he’d been work­ing in New Jer­sey for a po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm that han­dled Repub­li­can can­di­dates.

In 2013, New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man sued Trump, al­leg­ing that he had run an “un­li­censed ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tute,” once known as Trump Univer­sity, which de­frauded 5,000 cus­tomers out of $40 mil­lion with his “hard-sell tac­tics.” In an ad­ver­tise­ment cited in the case, Trump said, “In just 90 min­utes, my hand­picked in­struc­tors will share my tech­niques, which took my en­tire ca­reer to de­velop. Then copy ex­actly what I’ve done and get rich.”

The Ob­server pub­lished an al­most 8,000-word un­flat­ter­ing pro­file of Sch­nei­der­man in Fe­bru­ary 2014, ar­gu­ing that he was try­ing to use his of­fice as a spring­board from which to run for gov­er­nor. That wasn’t a shock; Sch­nei­der­man’s im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sors, Eliot Spitzer and Cuomo, had done the same. How­ever, the Ob­server ex­hausted quite a few of those words on what it de­scribed as the “weak case” against Trump, and it gave him am­ple space to de­fend him­self and at­tack Sch­nei­der­man. Em­ploy­ees of the pa­per at the time say they were stunned when the story ma­te­ri­al­ized on the pa­per’s web­site. It was the first they’d heard of such a project. Af­ter some of them read it, they headed out for drinks, and not the cel­e­bra­tory kind. “It was more like, ‘Holy s---, let’s get some Scotch!’ ” re­calls Matthew Kas­sel, a for­mer Ob­server staff writer. “Peo­ple seemed pretty dis­turbed about it.”

Kur­son in­sists that Kush­ner had noth­ing to do with the story, but the New York Times and Buz­zFeed re­ported that Kur­son had orig­i­nally as­signed it to a would-be writer who worked in a New Jer­sey ice cream par­lor and later begged off be­cause he thought Kur­son wanted a hatchet job. Af­ter that, Kur­son as­signed it to an Ari­zona-based writer who’d writ­ten ex­ten­sively about poker. “He’s a friend of mine from 15 years ago, a writer I trust, I’ve hired a mil­lion times,” Kur­son says. “I didn’t just, like, bring in some hit man.”

Kur­son stands by the Sch­nei­der­man pro­file, say­ing that no­body has chal­lenged the story. A Sch­nei­der­man spokesman de­clined to com­ment. How­ever, in 2014, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said there were so many things wrong with the story that it wasn’t worth the ef­fort. Mean­while, Sch­nei­der­man and Trump con­tinue to en­thu­si­as­ti­cally fight it out in court with both sides try­ing to spin de­ci­sions at both the su­pe­rior court and ap­pel­late level as knock­out blows.

Af­ter Trump de­clared his can­di­dacy in 2015, Kush­ner be­came a cam­paign rally reg­u­lar. In Jan­uary he joined Ivanka at one in Coun­cil Bluffs, Iowa. Trump as­sailed the me­dia and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nu­clear deal with Iran. Then he in­vited his fam­ily up. Trump’s wife, Me­la­nia, spoke first. A for­mer model from Slove­nia, she slouched in her cream-col­ored coat as if she was at a fash­ion shoot and ad­dressed the crowd in heav­ily ac­cented English. She was fol­lowed by Ivanka, who wore a dark, sil­ver-but­toned jacket, and Kush­ner, clad in a blue suit. Trump pointed out that his daugh­ter was 8 ½ months preg­nant. “She’s very tough, by the way, I have to tell you,” Trump said. “Right, Jared?”

Kush­ner wagged his head and gave her fa­ther a you-don’t-have-totell-me look.

“Po­lit­i­cally, wouldn’t it be great if she had her baby in Iowa?” Trump asked the crowd, which roared in ap­proval.

Ivanka laughed and pat­ted her fa­ther’s shoul­der. Kush­ner gave Trump a good-na­tured shrug as if to in­di­cate his fa­ther-in-law had a point.

“That would guar­an­tee vic­tory!” Trump con­tin­ued.

It’s not clear if Kush­ner sup­ports Trump’s more out­landish ideas, such as ban­ning Mus­lim im­mi­grants from en­ter­ing the coun­try to pre­vent ter­ror­ism. He’s said vir­tu­ally noth­ing pub­licly about his fa­ther-in-law’s pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions other than telling the New York Times last year that he thinks Trump would “be great.” But Kush­ner has been la­bor­ing be­hind the scenes to get him elected. He helped set up a meet­ing in Jan­uary with Trump and about a dozen Repub­li­can lead­ers to try to build a re­la­tion­ship with the party’s estab­lish­ment. Ear­lier this year, Kush­ner also at­tempted to smooth things over between the Trump cam­paign and his friend Ru­pert Mur­doch, who was un­happy with the can­di­date’s at­tacks on Fox News.

In March, peo­ple in the Ob­server news­room be­gan to sus­pect that Kur­son was also work­ing for the Trump cam­paign af­ter a video ap­peared on­line of their ed­i­tor-in-chief in the back­ground at the March 8 event in Florida where Trump cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wandowski al­legedly man­han­dled re­porter Michelle Fields. (Le­wandowski has been cleared of the charge.) Kur­son says he went to the rally with Kush­ner as a jour­nal­ist: “I cover pol­i­tics.”

Then in early April, New York mag­a­zine re­ported that Kush­ner and Kur­son had helped Trump pre­pare the speech he de­liv­ered to the Amer­i­can Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, in which he strongly de­fended the Jewish state and con­demned Obama. “Jared asked me if I’d eye­ball this draft, and I did,” Kur­son says. Af­ter the ar­ti­cle ap­peared, Ob­server staff mem­bers crowded into his of­fice and asked him to ex­plain him­self. Kur­son says he agreed not to dis­pense any more po­lit­i­cal ad­vice. “It didn’t just ap­ply to Trump,” he says. “If some other cam­paign wants in­put here, we’ll have to pass.”

Kush­ner didn’t seem both­ered by the Ob­server con­tro­versy. In late March he and his wife brought their third child home from the hos­pi­tal to their pen­t­house on Park Av­enue. Theodore James Kush­ner was born days be­fore in New York. It may have been too late to help Trump in Iowa, but the New York pri­mary was com­ing up on April 19. On the eve of the con­test, the Ob­server en­dorsed Trump, who won hand­ily. He and his fam­ily were one step closer to the White House. <BW>

Fa­ther and son in 2012

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