Jared Kushner has kept a relatively low-profile despite amassing billions of dollars in properties
Throughout 2016, his role as political operative for his father-in-law has grown substantially
Editor’s Note: This story is an update of a report CNN did over the summer reflecting the changes in Jared Kushner’s role in his father-in-law’s political organization in the wake of Donald Trump winning the election.
News this week that Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is at the center of the infighting inside the President-elect’s transition team highlights the larger role Kushner has carved out for himself since the campaign trail.
The 35-year-old businessman-turned-political operative has had a crucial role in his father-in-law’s incoming presidency and that is only expected to increase. A source with knowledge of this situation told CNN Tuesday that Kushner could likely end up with a top national security clearance as a key adviser to his father-in-law, a position which is expected for him.
While Trump has shared much of the spotlight with his adult children, Donald Jr., Eric and Kushner’s wife, Ivanka, the real estate mogul has also taken time publicly express his appreciation for the role his son-in-law has played largely behind the scenes.
As he wrapped up the Republican nomination after a crucial victory in Indiana’s primary earlier this year, Donald Trump singled out Kushner for praise, immediately after thanking his top campaign staffers, including then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks.
“Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate. And he is very good at politics,” Trump said.
Kushner’s business background
Kushner’s reaction to his father-in-law’s flattery – bashfully tilting his head downward, blushing at the compliment – embodied the stark differences between the two men.
While both expanded the real estate businesses their fathers built, Kushner has kept a relatively low-profile despite amassing billions of dollars in properties over his decade in the cutthroat New York real estate market.
Trump cultivated his image and bolstered his brand in the New York tabloids with tales of sexual escapades, dates with models and hyperbolic valuations of real estate deals. And his campaign has been defined by his controversial and at-times outrageous proposals and no-holds-barred tactics.
Kushner, by contrast, rarely sits for interviews and only rarely appears on television. And when he does, he doesn’t abandon his shyness and mild-mannered demeanor.
At just 25, Kushner delved into another industry, publishing, when he purchased The New York Observer in 2006, which just last week announced it would end its print edition and continue as an online-only publication.
Jumping on the campaign trail
After joining Trump sporadically on the campaign trail – standing quietly alongside his wife for brief moments on stage before adoring crowds of Trump supporters – Kushner took on his first campaign task by helping his father-in-law craft the policy and language for his speech in March before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
The speech was no small affair for Trump, who used a teleprompter for the first time as he delivered the remarks before an audience skeptical of his commitment to protecting Israel.
Kushner went on to add more responsibility within the campaign, spending more time with Trump. He helped the presumptive Republican nominee adjust to the reality of fundraising, which Trump largely eschewed during his primary campaign, a source told CNN.
“Jared has been very helpful on the fundraising side,” the source said.
Role in Lewandowski firing
The abrupt firing in June of Lewandowski underscored Kushner’s growing influence.
He was “intimately involved” in the decision, one source told CNN, noticeably putting his power and influence to the test in making the case to Trump that he should dump Lewandowski.
Kushner, along with Trump’s children, repeatedly butted heads with Lewandowski, who they felt was undermining their efforts to steer Trump in a more positive direction, multiple sources said. And rumors also swirled that Lewandowski was trying to plant negative stories in the press about Kushner to undercut Kushner’s influence.
Hours after his firing, even Lewandowski sang Kushner’s praises.
“He’s helped us from the onset,” Lewandowski told CNN’s Dana Bash, noting that Kushner has helped the campaign grow “a stronger social media presence.”
Kushner is no stranger to controversy or the media glare.
His life took dramatic turn in 2004 when his father Charles Kushner, a real estate developer and top Democratic campaign donor, was arrested and charged with federal crimes, including tax evasion, witness tampering and campaign finance violations.
The elder Kushner would strike a plea deal and serve two years in prison, catapulting his son to the heights of power in the family’s top-tier real estate development firm.
Kushner’s father was prosecuted by then-US Attorney Chris Christie. Christie who later went on to become New Jersey governor also ran Trump’s transition team until last week when the reins were handed over to incoming Vice President Mike Pence.
Sources said this week that Kushner has been irritating some allies in his recent efforts to purge the transition team of Christie associates, including former Rep. Mike Rogers, who until Tuesday served as a national security adviser for Trump’s transition.