Fate and politics cast Jared Kushner, the 35-year-old son-in-law and close adviser of Donald Trump, into the spotlight of this one-of-a-kind, New York-based presidential transition.
Not that the slim, boyish-looking Kushner ever shied away from it.
Starting in 2006, Kushner, a real estate scion like Trump, published the New York Observer, which he bought for just under $10 million. Just last week, it ceased its final weekly print edition, continuing only online as observer.com.
This week, the spouse of Trump daughter and business associate Ivanka Trump was identified in numerous reports as a central player in the transition team’s abrupt shake-up.
Former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers of Missouri confirmed in a televised interview Tuesday that he and other allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were asked to leave the team. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has succeeded Christie as transition leader.
As it happens, Christie and Kushner’s New Jersey real estate family have some history.
Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, was prosecuted by then-U. S. Attorney Christie in 2005, and convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. He was released after serving 1 year of a 2-year sentence.
The trial had a Trumpian tabloid flavor. Charles Kushner testified that he smeared his brother-in-law by hiring a prostitute to have sex with him and sending a recording of it to his sister.
The brother-in-law had been cooperating with the feds.
All this received mention in the run-up to last week’s election.
Not as well remembered is that the Kushners and Rudy Giuliani — a prominent Trump surrogate and possible nominee for secretary of state — also have some history, though of a more cordial nature.
Back in 1999, Giuliani was raising money for a Senate campaign run against Hillary Clinton when Charles Kushner — then best known for his ties to President Bill Clinton and other Democrats — held a big fundraiser for the then-mayor.
But because of what were characterized as technical errors and violations of federal election laws, more than half the $100,000 raised at the party had to be returned.
Kushner’s background as an Orthodox Jew also comes into play in the continuing maelstrom over Trump’s fan base on the far right.
Trump has another wealthy, Harvard-educated adviser on the scene at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue: Steve Bannon, who now carries the titles of chief strategist and senior counselor.
Bannon ran Breitbart News, associated with the so-called “alt-right” movement, which includes avowed white supremacists and anti-Semites.
Over the summer, Observer reporter Dana Schwartz criticized Trump for a tweet accusing Clinton of corruption that used a star of David over a background of $100 bills. She was then deluged with anti-Semitic Twitter traffic. She wrote an open letter asking how Kushner permitted this.
Kushner replied: “In my opinion, accusations like ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semite’ are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering these words meaningless.”
He noted that his grandparents survived the Holocaust and other relatives did not. “I know the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus those labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points,” he wrote.