Has there ever been a more fascinating family associated with the White House? Long a haven for grifters (heck, even Warren Harding made it), the rise and resilience of Jared Kushner — Donald Trump’s son-in-law — remains one of the more bizarre aspects of an already very bizarre presidency. If Kushner has had a relatively easy ride until now, it looks like things are going to get a lot more difficult.
This week Kushner Inc, a detailed account of how Kushner and Ivanka Trump rose to power in the White House is released. According to The New York Times, the account by Vanity Fair’s Vicky Ward is not expected to be a flattering one. Kushner is also getting some backdraught from the recent US college admissions scandal, with his curious admission to Harvard — which occurred shortly after his father donated several million dollars to the elite college — coming back under the microscope.
Jared’s role as senior adviser to Trump was most likely not bestowed due to his outstanding business success and intelligence — it is worth noting that he was responsible for one of the worst New York property deals ever. Instead, perhaps it’s because, along with wife, Kushner was allegedly a calming influence on Trump, although actual evidence of that is difficult to find.
Until recently, Kushner is understood to have managed to somehow remain in Trump’s inner circle, gaining plaudits for helping broker a not-totally-terrible criminal justice reform bill. However, his status took a hit after Trump appeared to blame his failure to get congressional approval for his border wall funding bill.
Arguably a more interesting story than Jared though is that of the rest of his family.
Jared’s younger brother, Josh Kushner, appears to be his complete opposite. While Jared was described by an employee of The New York Observer (of which Kushner was previously owner) as being neither “bright or hard-working”, Josh is described as an incredibly successful entrepreneur.
Josh founded Oscar Health, an insurance company aimed at millenials, back in 2012. Oscar Health has been an incredible success, valued at US$3.2 billion last year, before a more recent funding round which was led by Alphabet (parent company of Google), which invested a further US$375 million.
Josh Kushner’s business success doesn’t end there. He also founded one of New York’s most successful venture capital firms, Thrive Capital. Thrive raised around $1 billion for its sixth fund last year. Kushner, who is a good friend of Instagram founder Kevin Systrom, doubled his money in a few days after investing in Instagram just before to it was sold to Facebook. Some of Thrive’s other investments include Stripe, Slack, Robinhood and Github (of which Thrive owned almost 10% when it was sold to Microsoft last year for US$7.5 billion).
The super successful 33-year-old is also a lifelong Democrat voter (along with his supermodel wife, Karlie Kloss). He didn’t vote for Trump, and attended the 2017 anti-Trump Women’s March on Washington.
The soap-opera family
The Kushners were already semi-famous even before Jared married Ivanka, albeit for the wrong reasons. Jared and Josh’s dad, Charles — a very successful real estate developer with a fortune estimated to be upwards of US$2 billion — became page 6 fodder when a family fight turned very nasty.
Charles inherited a reasonably sized property development business from his father in the mid 1980s and by 1999 had grown it into a business worth upwards of a billion dollars. Charles, however, was feuding with his brother, Murray, over the potential purchase of Berkshire Realty — the risk-averse Murray wouldn’t let Charles complete the deal.
Charles’ sister Esther and his brother-in-law Billy Schulder then sided with Murray. In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, Charles feared that Billy and Esther were cooperating with an FBI probe into his political donations and concocted an elaborate plot.
In something befitting a made-for-TV movie, Charles hired a private investigator who then hired a sex worker to essentially entrap Schulder. The incident was filmed and handed to Esther who, instead of divorcing her philandering husband, handed evidence against Charles to authorities — who promptly charged him with 18 felonies including tax evasion, witness tampering and election fraud. Charles was eventually sentenced to two years prison, and served 18 months.
While he’s had varying levels of success in escaping the limelight during Trump’s tumultuous presidency, it appears Jared’s private life — just like his father’s — is about to become a lot more public.
Adam Schwab is the author of Pigs at the Trough: Lessons from Australia’s Decade of Corporate Greed.