- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
On Monday, in a move straight out of Kazakhstan or Turkey, senior Trump transition team officials told NBC News that Jared Kushner will be a senior advisor to the U.S. president-elect, who just happens to be his father-in-law. Kushner’s controversial business ties bring a new wave of potential conflict of interest to the ocean of questions and concerns surrounding Trump’s corporate endeavors.
Kushner, who reportedly played a starring role in both the Trump campaign and transition team, is married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Trump’s other sons, Donald Jr. and Eric are expected to take over Trump’s business operations (and hunting) while their father busies himself with the presidency.
Kushner is a New York City real-estate developer and was, until Monday, CEO of Kushner Companies, which has dealings with a variety of international organizations, prompting some to question his foreign conflicts of interest when he joins the administration. His lawyer issued a statement saying Kushner “is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take.”
Kushner also owns the New York Observer. He used the publication as a campaign platform; in July 2016 he penned “The Donald Trump I Know,” in which he used the story of his Holocaust survivor grandmother to explain that, contrary to the claims of some (including Observer writer Dana Schwartz), his father-in-law is not an anti-Semite. Trump was accused of anti-Semitism after tweeting out an image of Hillary Clinton’s face over a pile of money with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” encased in what appeared to be a Star of David, while his campaign attracted swarms of anti-Semites who trolled (and still troll) Twitter users.
Said one former Observer writer on Twitter,
While working for him, I literally had nightmares about Jared Kushner becoming this powerful.
— Foster Kamer (@weareyourfek) January 9, 2017
Kushner’s influence spread from inside the campaign and New York media to the transition team, where he apparently ousted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the former federal prosecutor who sent Kushner’s father to prison. Kushner pere had been involved in tax evasion, witness tampering, illegal campaign donations, and also cooperated with feds to try to exact revenge on his brother-in-law by seducing him with prostitutes, but a grudge is a grudge.
Kushner’s dabbled not only in transition team politics, but also Trump-style foreign affairs. Kushner and Ivanka both sat in on Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Kushner is apparently conducting business with China’s Anbang Insurance Group. In fact, according to a New York Times report, when China’s ambassador to the United States called the White House to express “deep displeasure” at Trump’s phone call with the leader of Taiwan, the call was directed to Kushner because of his involvement with Anbang and other Chinese investors. Trump also said Kushner could be central in solving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, perhaps because Israeli Hapoalim Bank, Israel’s largest bank, which allegedly helped American clients with tax evasion, gave multiple loans to Kushner Companies.
All in all, a tough day for ethics, but a great day for family ties. Congratulations, Mr. Kushner.
Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images