Who Is Trump's Son-in-Law Jared Kushner — and Why Would He Sit in on the President-Elect’s Classified Daily Briefings?
Jared Kushner has rarely been far from Donald Trump's side throughout his campaign, and now his transition into the White House
Trump’s intelligence briefings began on Tuesday, but according to NBC News it could take weeks or longer for Kushner to receive the security clearance necessary to listen in on the briefings, which contain the nation’s most classified security information.
NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell also reported that anti-nepotism laws could prevent Kushner, the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, from holding an official federal job.
CBS News reported earlier in the week that Trump was seeking top-secret security clearances for three of his children, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr., along with Kushner, the 35-year-old real estate developer and publisher of The Observer.
But a Trump transition team official told pool reporters that the president-elect did not request or begin paperwork for his children to receive top security clearance.
“That’s not something I’m expecting right now,” the official said.
And Trump himself dismissed the reports in a tweet early Wednesday:
But Kushner, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka have already been appointed to Trump’s Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee.
Asked on Wednesday whether Kushner will be granted security clearance, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told a press pool in the lobby of Trump Tower, “I’m not aware of that. I just don’t know.”
In response to another reporter who asked if it’s a “conflict of interest” for Trump’s children to be heavily involved in the transition given their roles as heads of the president-elect’s company, the Trump Organization, Conway said, “You’re presuming that they’re doing certain things that they should not be doing. I mean, they’re his children and they’ve been his business colleagues for a very long time. They obviously support their father as president.”
It remains to be seen whether Kushner will be allowed in on Trump’s presidential briefings, but he has already become one of his closest advisers, a role that will no doubt continue in some form in Trump’s presidency. So who is Jared Kusher? Here are five key facts to know:
1. Kushner married into the Trump family in 2009
Ivanka, 35, and Jared met in 2007 when a commercial real estate broker and another friend set them up on a business lunch. The couple dated for two years before getting married in 2009. Ivanka converted to Judaism before their wedding, and the couple are now raising their three children — Arabella, 5, Joseph, 3, and Theodore, 7 months — as Orthodox Jews. The family keeps kosher, observes the Sabbath and attends a synagogue on New York City’s Upper East Side.
The Harvard-educated Kushner, a real estate developer who took over his family’s New Jersey-based real estate firm in 2004, seemed to fit perfectly into the Trump family. His father-in-law has praised him as “a very successful real estate person” and someone who’s “very good at politics.”
RELATED VIDEO: Ivanka Trump on Donald, Marriage and Motherhood: ‘I’m a Daughter, Not a Clone’
2. Kushner is a media mogul
In 2006, a then-25-year-old Kushner purchased The New York Observer, the society paper known for its salmon pink pages and chronicling of New York City’s political, media and business elite. On Friday, the publication announced it was closing its weekly print edition and would heretofore be known as The Observer. Joseph Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Observer Media, the paper’s parent company, told The New York Times the decision was two years in the making and unrelated to Trump’s election.
In the months leading up to his father-in-law’s election, Kushner was also rumored to be heading up efforts for a possible Trump TV network. In September, the now president-elect denied that he wanted to launch a Trump-branded television network or streaming service if he lost the election, telling The Washington Post, “I have no interest in a media company. False rumor.”
3. Kushner, who is an Orthodox Jew, has been condemned for tolerating what critics have called Trump’s anti-Semitic dog whistles
In July, Dana Schwartz, a writer at The Observer, wrote an open letter denouncing Trump’s son-in-law (and the paper’s publisher) for his “tacit approval” of an image the now president-elect tweeted that was widely viewed as anti-Semitic. (The image featured Hillary Clinton atop a bed of money with a six-sided star declaring her the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” Trump later deleted the tweet and replaced it with a revised image in which the six-sided star was now a circle. It was reported that the image had originated on a white Supremacist twitter account.)
“Please do not condescend to me and pretend you don’t understand the imagery of a six-sided star when juxtaposed with money and accusations of financial dishonesty,” Schwartz implored Kushner at the time. “I’m asking you, not as a ‘gotcha’ journalist or as a liberal but as a human being: 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, who is famously press-shy, responded to the letter in a statement at the time, saying:
“My father-in-law is an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife. I know that Donald does not at all subscribe to any racist or anti-semitic thinking. I have personally seen him embrace people of all racial and religious backgrounds. The suggestion that he may be intolerant is not reflective of the Donald Trump I know.”
Kushner, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, later doubled down on his statement with an op-ed in the Observer titled “The Donald Trump I Know,” in which he declared that Trump is not anti-Semitic or racist, and faulted his political rivals and the media for holding him responsible for the actions of “the most fringe of his supporters.”
RELATED VIDEO: Ivanka Trump’s Husband Defends Donald Trump Against Anti-Semitic Allegations
4. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once prosecuted Kushner’s father
Kushner’s father, billionaire real estate developer Charles Kushner, was sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion, witness tampering and making unlawful campaign donations in 2004 after being prosecuted by then-U.S. attorney Christie in a highly publicized case.
Christie, now the governor of New Jersey, has also served as an advisor to Trump in his presidential campaign, and was appointed the head of Trump’s transition team last spring. But Christie was demoted shortly after Trump was elected president, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence was tapped to take over the role.
Now, CNN is reporting that Kushner is at the center of “infighting” inside the transition team, with sources telling the outlet that Trump’s son-in-law is working to replace members associated with the New Jersey governor.
Bloomberg reported that Kushner is also believed to have been instrumental in keeping Christie off Trump’s presidential ticket.
5. Official or not, Kushner will likely have some role in the Trump administration
Kushner has rarely been far from Trump’s side throughout his campaign, and now his transition into the White House.
When Trump visited the White House last week to meet with President Barack Obama for the first time, Kushner was spotted walking around the South Lawn with Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. Kushner was the only Trump family member present.
“Everyone on the campaign and transition leadership team would love him to come to Washington,” Hope Hicks, Trump’s press secretary, told the Associated Press of Kushner. Noting Kushner’s key role in the campaign, Hicks added, “People are hopeful that will continue in the administration.”