Kushner Inc: Greed. Ambition. Corruption, by Vicky Ward


One of the surprises of the special lawyer Robert Mueller's investigation into the alleged collusion between the Russian election campaign and Donald Trump was the fact that it ended without Mueller seeking further denunciations.

If you had done a survey with Washington lawyers about who would be the next target in the president's circle, your son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would have led many lists. Kushner was somewhere during several significant interactions between the Russians and the campaign.

But, as Vicky Ward's blunt book shows, Russia is only part of history. After becoming Trump's senior adviser, the president's son-in-law had been denied access to highly confidential information after he omitted information from the disclosure forms (he was eventually cleared at Trump's request). Kushner held meetings at the White House with bankers his family was trying to persuade to redeem their 666 Fifth Avenue purchase in New York for $ 1.8 billion. He also used WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders such as Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Ward asserts that dubious ethics is only the second most disturbing thing about Mr. Kushner. His biggest concern is lack of qualification. Both he and his wife, Ivanka, self-proclaimed "First Daughter," have unrestricted access to the president – especially now that there is no permanent White House chief of staff.

Ward argues that Mr. Kushner provided some of the worst advice Mr. Trump took. One example she gave was the decision to dismiss Jim Comey, the former FBI director, who triggered Mueller's nomination. Kushner told the president that the measure would be "extremely popular," with Democrats still worried about Comey's handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. An intern would know the reverse was true. "It's not so much about corruption – though it's in part – as incompetence," said Ward McGahn, a former White House adviser. "You can not dismiss the family as a general rule."

Ward writes that Mr. Trump tried to persuade "Javanka" to return to New York on several occasions. But they are good at regaining their graces. Ivanka, writes Ward, gets to work at 10 am in a designer outfit that she changes about three times a day. Your target audience is in the Oval Office. "I mean, have you ever seen a more handsome couple?" Mr. Trump asks visitors about the pair.

They are well matched: both heirs of rule-abusing parents who have made a fortune in real estate in New York and New Jersey. Charles Kushner, who sees himself as a "Jewish Joe Kennedy" [the paterfamilias of the Kennedy clan], spent time in jail for witness adulterating after blackmailing his brother-in-law with a video of him having a sexual encounter with a prostitute.

Ivanka was raised primarily by her mother, Ivana. As a teenager, she became her father's favorite. "She makes no secret of the fact that she wants to be the most powerful woman in the world," Ward writes.

Not even half the couple, however, can point to careers that equip them for the responsibility they carry. Since they are indifferent to White House rules, they are not popular with employees. Kushner's nickname is the "prince of clowns," Ward writes, and Ivanka's office in the west wing is known as "Habi" – home to all bad ideas. "Jared and Ivanka are just playing in government," said John Kelly, a former chief of staff.

It's fair to say that the author is not a fan of the couple. She describes Mr. Kushner's voice as "whiny" and "high-pitched." He is so calm, according to Michael Cohen, former attorney for Mr. Trump, "he's almost like a flat line on an ECG." The book quotes a hacked e-mail from George Nader, another obscure character: "No one would even waste a cup of coffee on him if it were not for whom he is married."

Ivanka, meanwhile, is portrayed as a manipulative figure who pretends to be the conscience of her father, but is complicit in everything he does. She has a taste for writing self-help books. His first was titled The Trump: Playing to Win at Work and Life. Strangely, this could have served as the title of Ward's book as well.

The reviewer is the US national editor of FT

Kushner Inc: Greed. Ambition. Corruption, by Vicky Ward, St Martin Press, $ 28.99


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