It should surprise no one that a baby-faced real estate scion who made his millions leveraging his surname—despite a family history of corruption and criminality—would accrue influence in the Donald Trump campaign. And yet, apparently, Trump staffers are baffled at the rise of the presumptive Republican nominee’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
According to the Associated Press, Kushner—who is married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and owns the New York Observer—has involved himself in various aspects of the campaign, including helping to write Trump’s speech earlier this week intended to reassure worried Republicans that he won’t destroy the party.
He was part of a Trump delegation that met with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s policy team late last month in Washington, attended an hours-long meeting of Trump’s transition team in New York, joined Trump’s first fundraising swing last month in California, and recently courted opinion leaders such as former secretary of state Henry Kissinger to discuss Trump’s foreign policy. He is also playing an active role in the selection and vetting of Trump’s pick for vice president, expected to be unveiled during the GOP’s national convention next month, and is expected to spend more time traveling with the candidate.
Leveraging his connections to media executives, Kushner also leaned upon his friendship with media mogul Rupert Murdoch to improve the campaign’s strained relationship with the Fox News Channel.
(He was also named to Trump’s transition committee, led by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who, as U.S. attorney, sent Kushner’s father to prison. Just a fun fact!) WNYC’s Matt Katz also reported that Kushner attended the meeting with Kissinger:
Like Trump, Kushner knows that in New Jersey, relationships and money are the lingua franca of doing business. Kushner has several real estate developments in Jersey City, including a new Trump tower, and ties to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, a possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate. But Kushner also finds time to join Trump for high-profile meetings — like a recent one with Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State. An observant Jew, Kushner also helped to write a speech that Trump gave to a pro-Israel group, and he may accompany Trump to Israel next month.
Kushner, it appears, is using his privileged position as a family member to influence Trump at a time when more seasoned political operatives—like campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort—are trying to undermine each other. (Kushner, the AP reports, is considered a critic of Lewandowski’s.)
“He has a beautiful, brilliant wife,” Myers Mermel, a friend of Kushner’s and a real-estate executive himself, recently told Bloomberg Businessweek. “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.”
Maybe, but then again, much like his father-in-law, Kushner seems only to be a Republican of convenience: Forty of the 44 political contributions made in his name between 1992 and 2004 went to Democrats, and in 2000 and 2003 specifically he donated $6,000 to Hillary Clinton. (Also like Trump, the Observer endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.) In 2014, he donated $10,000 to the New York and New Jersey state Democratic committees.
“Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate,” Trump said at a rally last month. “But he’s very good at politics.”