Jared Kushner has become a major player in the Trump-Russia investigation — here’s how that happened

U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner depart the White House in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2017.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Ivanka Trump emerged as a major force in her father’s presidential campaign and administration. She introduced Trump before he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and took a position in the White House as an unpaid adviser.

But her less-visible husband, Jared Kushner, has developed a key role in the administration as well. He’s proven influential in many of Trump’s decisions, and is said to temper his father-in-law’s often brash conduct.

Here are some things to know about him:

Caroline Simon contributed reporting to this article.

Jared Kushner is the son of Charles Kushner, a real-estate developer and a major philanthropist and donor to the Democratic Party. The elder Kushner also spent two years in prison for making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering.

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The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Jared Kushner was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey. He earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard and an MBA and JD from New York University.

At 25, Kushner bought The New York Observer for $10 million. He’s been credited with increasing the weekly newspaper’s online presence and helping it become profitable for the first time.

Kushner is also an active real-estate investor. In 2006, when he was 26, he made the then most expensive single property purchase in history, buying the office building at 666 Fifth Avenue for $1.8 billion. In 2008, he became CEO of Kushner Cos.

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In 2009, Kushner married Ivanka Trump in a Jewish ceremony. Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism before the wedding. They have three children: 5-year-old Arabella, 3-year-old Joseph, and 1-year-old Theodore.

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Kushner played a major part in his father-in-law’s presidential campaign, even though he has no official role. Sources close to Trump have said Kushner encouraged his father-in-law to behave like a more traditional candidate by building relationships with politicians and donors.

Reuters/Rick Wilking

Kushner helped smooth Trump’s relationship with Jewish leaders by helping him craft a campaign speech to the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

A friend of Rupert Murdoch, Kushner also helped Trump reconcile with Fox News after his controversial criticism of Megyn Kelly.

Kushner was caught up in the controversy surrounding Trump’s retweet of an image depicting Hillary Clinton and a Star of David, which many saw as anti-Semitic. When a writer at his newspaper wrote him an open letter criticizing the candidate’s conduct, he responded, arguing that his father-in-law supports his and his family’s faith.

Kushner was also said to have helped in the selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate.

Trump has repeatedly praised Kushner, saying that “Jared is an amazing son-in-law, and we are very close,” and describing him as “a big and bold thinker.”

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Since Trump took office, Kushner has remained by his side, being named a senior adviser to the President. Trump tasked his son-in-law with brokering a peace deal in the Middle East.

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Kushner and his allies have reportedly clashed with some fellow West Wing advisers, namely the more nationalist coalition led by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Kushner has also become caught up in the chief controversy roiling the Trump administration’s first few months. The Washington Post reported in May that the FBI was scrutinizing his meetings with Russian officials during the campaign and transition with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak and a Russian banker. NBC News reported federal authorities believe Kushner may have “significant information” into their ongoing investigation.

White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner attends a swearing in ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Executive office in Washington, U.S., March 29, 2017.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

According to The Washington Post, during these meetings with Kislyak, Kushner attempted to set up a secret back channel of communication between the White House and Russia, a fact that took even the Russian ambassador by surprise. It was also reported by Reuters that Kushner had two undisclosed phone calls with Kislyak between April and November of last year.

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In a statement, Kushner’s lawyer said: “Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.” His lawyer also commented on the phone calls, saying, “Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information.”

Jared Kushner.
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