Kushner, Inc review: Jared, Ivanka Trump and the rise of the American kakistocracy

Vicky Ward has produced a damning depiction, a lethal amalgam of Page Six-like dish and firsthand investigative reporting

Like Donald Trump, Americans are displeased with Jared Kushner, the president’s squeaky sounding son-in-law. As the reality that Kushner received his White House security clearance the same way he got into Harvard sinks in – “Daddy” pulled some very expensive strings – his popularity will not be rebounding anytime soon.

Vicky Ward’s book is subtitled: “Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.” It is a damning depiction of the Kushner clan and “Javanka”.

Kushner, Inc is an amalgam of Page Six-like dish, post-Holocaust social history, firsthand investigative reporting and recapitulation of Javanka & Co’s contempt for rules, at least those that directly affect them. In Ward’s telling, Charlie Kushner, Jared Kushner’s father, dreamed of becoming America’s Jewish Joe Kennedy, Ivanka Trump fantasizes about being president and Donald Trump almost wishes Ivanka could have been his first lady. Ward puts it all out there, waiting for the reader to inhale, gasp and possibly heave in disgust.

Surprisingly, there has been little concerted pushback. Charlie Kushner’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post only reinforces the book’s central contention that Jared Kushner eviscerated the line between the public good and his own interests. From the looks of things, the Kushners treated the notions of national interest and service as punchlines.

On that note, Ward describes Kushner’s efforts to corral Mark Corallo, an army veteran and one-time Department of Justice official who had been critical of Javanka, to join the White House as communications director. Corallo demurred and Kushner asked: “Don’t you want to serve your country?” Corallo tartly replied: “Young man, my three years at the butt end of an M-16 checked that box.” If nothing else, Kushner, Inc reinforces the well-founded conviction that we are governed by a kakistocracy, from the president on down.

By way of introduction, Charlie Kushner is a New Jersey real estate developer and tempestuously tempered convicted felon. Even as he was running afoul of Chris Christie, then a federal prosecutor, Charlie Kushner was being hit with an eight-figure fine by the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, in connection with the operation of NorCrown Trust, an unregistered bank holding company, a factoid recounted by Ward.

Also involved in the NorCrown Affair was Murray Huberfeld. In May 2018, Huberfeld pleaded guilty in connection with defrauding Platinum Investors, his hedge fund. Ironically, among those burned were Richard Stadtmauer and his wife Marisa, Jared’s aunt and uncle on his mother’s side. Back in the day, Richard was Charlie’s lieutenant, and was sentenced to 38 months in prison for crimes related to Charlie’s stay at Club Fed. Life is a circle.

Kushner, Inc meticulously examines Charlie’s rise and fall, how Jared got to where he arrived, and where he may yet wind up. We catch glimpses of a Runyonesque supporting cast – Seryl Kushner, Charlie’s accommodating wife, a randy brother-in-law and a cadre of crooked accountants – together with Charlie’s accusations of ingratitude thundered at siblings and relatives.

The Holocaust and Judaism shape much of the Kushner family’s history like sepia that bleeds on to canvas. Charlie’s parents survived the war and made it to America. They also imbued him with an embrace of religion as tribal endeavor.

From Ward’s tale, few leave with reputations intact. Only Josh Kushner, Jared’s brother, emerges as a sympathetic figure. Ward details the Kushners’ post-election efforts to attract capital from China, whether it be touting EB-5 visas in exchange for investments or looking for Anbang, a Chinese conglomerate, to bail them out of their untenable position over 666 Fifth Avenue.

Unlike Jared, Josh comes across as possessing a light touch, talented and ready to defy his parents.

To Seryl and Charlie’s chagrin, Josh married Karlie Kloss, a Victoria’s Secret model, computer geek and sponsor of Kode with Klossy, a scholarship program for girls and younger women. Like Ivanka Trump, Kloss converted to Judaism. Unlike her sister-in-law, Kloss’s father is a physician, unhaunted by the specter of Robert Mueller, SDNY subpoenas or the ghost of John McCain.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at the Royal Court Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at the Royal Court Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Ward directly links Jared Kushner’s tortured relationship with the truth to his father’s tropism toward transgressive behavior. Despite commanding a battery of Washington’s most expensive legal talent, Kushner never deigned to come clean on his SF-86, his federal disclosure form, a prerequisite for obtaining a security clearance, until he was squeezed by external events, the drip of incessant leaks, headlines and hearings.

Kushner, Inc does not entertain. It is not Fire and Fury 2.0. Rather, it traces how we arrived at this point, where Javanka plays an outsized role in driving national decisions and our nightly news.

Taking a trip down memory lane, Ward recalls how Kushner became the prime mover of the special counsel’s investigation. She writes that Steve Bannon, Trump’s final campaign chief, a one-time navy officer, attempted to impress upon the president the need to dismiss James Comey as FBI director early on, or be prepared to keep him for the long haul. Trump and Kushner were having none of that.

Kushner only began urging Trump to dump Comey after things started to unravel. As he saw it, career FBI agents, Democrats and Trump’s base would applaud the dismissal.

Wrong. The “rid me of this meddlesome priest” thing didn’t work so well the first time. Ask Henry II. In death, Thomas Becket was venerated.

Bannon resisted, and noted that if Trump fired Comey the director would come to look like J Edgar Hoover, a legend. Democrats and the bureau would rally round him, Trump’s base would shrug. Like Corallo, Bannon once wore a uniform. Reality mattered.

The Book of Genesis tells the story of Isaac and Rebekah’s sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac preferred Esau, his oldest. Jacob, however, prevailed. Fathers can get things wrong. He doesn’t always know best. Josh and Kloss must be smirking.


Lloyd Green

The GuardianTramp

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