Trump frequently brought up the Kushner family on the campaign trail, telling supporters that Ivanka converted to Judaism.
The Kushner family rose to prominence in New Jersey after Joseph and Rae Kushner, both Holocaust survivors, came to the U.S. in 1949. However, their family history took an ugly turn in the 2000s, with a sibling rivalry that culminated with Charles Kushner spending time in prison.
Politico reported that Jared Kushner doesn’t like Chris Christie because of his role in prosecuting his father. That’s why Christie was kicked off the transition team, along with the ongoing Bridgegate scandal. Jared’s distaste for working with Christie even extends to working with those close to Christie, which is why former Congressman Mike Rogers was also out of the Trump team. Christie didn’t even get a role in the administration, despite being an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy.
Here’s what you need to know about Charles Kushner.
1. Kushner Built Schools & Named Them After His Parents
The Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School are Modern Orthodox Jewish schools that Kushner built and named after his parents.
Kushner graduated from Hofstra Law School in 1979. He also established the Joseph Kushner Distinguished Professorship in Civil Liberties Law at Hofstra.
When Joseph and Rae Kushner arrived in New Jersey, they were among a group of other Holocaust survivors who emigrated to the Garden State and began a career as real-estate developers, reports New York Magazine. It was on the foundation that his father started that Kushner Properties was built.
Jared Kushner told the story of his grandparents’ survival of the Holocaust in his response to Observer writer Dana Schwartz, who called Trump Anti-Semitic.
“I have a different take-away from my Grandparents’ experience in the war. It is our responsibility as the next generation to speak up against hate. Anti-semitism or otherwise,” Marc Kushner, Jared Kushner’s first cousin, wrote on Facebook.
Kushner also helped his son get into Harvard, author Daniel Golden, who wrote The Price of Admissions: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges, reports. When Jared Kushner was admitted to Harvard, even though he had poor grades, Kushner donated $2.5 million to the university.
2. He Was Once Nominated to be Chair of the Board of Directors for the Port Authority
During the early 2000s, Kushner supported Democrats, making donations to Hillary Clinton and Robert Torricelli, reports Talking Points Memo. He also supported former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who went on to nominate him to be the chair of the board of directors for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2002. Kushner was McGreevey’s top fundraiser.
When a legislator in Trenton began asking Kushner to respond to questions about his political donations, Kushner took himself out of the running. “The Port Authority faces too many important goals and decisions to be distracted by the political nonsense and bickering generated by local partisan politics,” Kushner said in a statement, The New York Times reported in 2003.
This incident brought extra attention to the lawsuit Kushner’s brother Murray Kushner filed and the sibling rivalry that was going on behind the scenes.
3. His Sibling Rivalry Included Lawsuits & Using a Prostitute to Frame His Brother-In-Law
Kushner made multiple donations to political campaigns because, as a developer, he created over 100 partnerships which could each make their own donations, New York Magazine reports. However, when he would make these donations, he would also make them in the name of other partners, who he declined to tell. One of these partners was his own brother, Murray. Murray sued Kushner and wanted a full account of where the money was going.
Charles was also fined by the Federal Election Commission and had to pay $508,900 in connection with donations made between December 1997 and August 2000 because they were made by partnerships that were in reality controlled by the same person.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie enters the story in 2004. At the time, Christie was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and going after Kushner was an early success story for him. Christie indicted Kushner on conspiracy, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation, notes Multi Family Executive.
That last charge stems from the fact that Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce William Schulder, his sister Esther Schulder’s husband, in an effort to get Esther to not cooperate with authorities. According to The New York Times, Kushner admitted that this was “wrong in every way” in a letter to Esther that was made public during an appeal for leniency.
“What I did as an act of revenge was wrong in every way,” Kushner wrote. “I only ask that you forgive me for resorting to such despicable behavior, which is disgraceful. I was wrong and I committed a terrible sin. How did I let hatred invade my heart and guide my actions?”
Kushner agreed to plead guilty to felony counts of submitting false campaign finance reports and tax returns. He was sentenced to two years in prison, notes Politico. He started the sentence in an Alabama federal prison, but was later moved to a halfway house in New Jersey. He was released in August 2006.
4. He Said He ‘Didn’t Waste His Time in Jail’
In an interview with The Real Deal after his release, Kushner said that going to jail was the greatest obstacle he faced in life. However, it was also an opportunity for him to learn about himself.
“It gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about myself,” Kushner told The Real Deal. “I learned a lot about other people. I learned a lot about different areas I’ve always had an interest to learn about, whether it be Jewish history or derivative financing.I didn’t waste my time in jail. I was able to read the Wall Street Journal cover to cover every day.”
Kushner also called the incident with his sister “a family tragedy” and he believed that God and his parents will forgive him in heaven. He did say that he didn’t think his parents would forgive his sister though for “instigating a criminal investigation and being cheerleaders for the government and putting their brother in jail because of jealousy, hatred and spite.”
Kushner also told The Real Deal that the one thing he would change if he had to start everything from the beginning was not include Marry as a business partner.
5. He Hosted a Trump Fundraiser at His Home in July 2015
Last summer, Kushner, who previously donated to Democrats, hosted one of the first fundraisers for Trump after he launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. According to the New York Times, the event was hosted at the $6.7 million home on the Jersey Shore Charles shares with his wife, Seryl.
Kushner had also donated $100,000 to Make America Great Again PAC, a Super PAC supporting Trump, Politico reported. A source told Politico that the donation was “entirely unsolicited and meant as a sign of support for the Trump candidacy.”
The donation was made at a New York fundraiser in July 2015, Politico reported, where Trump spoke for 10-15 minutes.