If the celebrations that spilled into the streets of New York City in the wake of Joe Biden’s victory made one thing clear, it’s that the Trumps aren’t welcome here.
For the President, who changed his primary residency last year to Florida, that’s perhaps no major loss, but for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the block parties celebrating the demise of the Trump administration may provide a glimpse of what awaits them once they exit the White House.
Now that their political lives in Washington are over – the question for this once-golden power couple is what their time in the political spotlight has meant for their brand, particularly in their old Manhattan stomping grounds.
“[The President] was so awful and divisive about New York, saying it’s a nightmare or that it’s empty, or a has-been,” said Jill Kargman, a writer, Upper East Side resident and daughter of the former chairman of Chanel who has socialized at events with the couple in the past. “No one here is going to forget that. To even come back here after everything he’s said, it’s not going to work.”
In the days before they were denizens of the White House, Kushner and Trump inhabited a rarified slice of New York society.
They frequented the Met Gala, she in a strapless royal blue gown one year and a backless scarlet jumpsuit the next, and the Vanity Fair party for the Tribeca Film Festival. She made the rounds at fashion events, attending Carolina Herrera runway shows, a Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts celebration for Italian designer Valentino and the Glamour Women of the Year Awards.
Now, though, they may not like what they find if they return.
A glimpse of what likely awaits them was on display in Times Square last month where the anti-Trump Lincoln Project took out ad space on a pair of Times Square billboards showing their smiling faces alongside coronavirus death statistics and an illustration of body bags. When the couple threatened to file a lawsuit, the group also placed the image on a barge to circle Mar-a-Lago and on trucks that circled Trump Tower, according to tweets from the project co-founder.
New York isn’t the only place to call home, of course. While the couple has been tight-lipped about where they intend to reside post-White House, they have kept their sprawling Upper East Side apartment, an East Wing official said, and they are eyeing the possibility of spending more time in New Jersey, according to a source familiar with the couple’s thinking.
Two sources who have worked with the couple believe they may end up in Florida, specifically the Palm Beach area. Trump has accumulated a number of acquaintances in the state, both socially and politically, and in recent months she visited Florida at least five times, hosting campaign events in Republican areas such as Sarasota, but also making appearances in Miami. A Florida home-base would not only provide Trump a platform should she eye a future political career there, and it would also keep the couple clear of facing New York.
Mar-a-Lago is not an option for their permanent residence, however, according to a source with knowledge of the family dynamics. Though Ivanka Trump has a private guest house there, Mar-a-Lago is the preferred home of the first lady and she and the President’s daughter have a frosty relationship.
Washington, meanwhile, may no longer hold much appeal. “They only know the DC of being in power,” said one senior Republican. “Wait until they realize no one is taking their calls.”
Indeed, inside the White House, according to sources, the expectation is high for them to return to Manhattan – even if it means an inhospitable homecoming for the pair.
For one thing, either may decide to return to their respective family businesses, where they each worked before the White House. Representatives for Ivanka Trump and Kushner Companies did not respond to requests for comment on this story. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization referred calls to the White House.
A White House official said of Kushner that “there are a wealth of opportunities for him to explore,” pointing to his involvement in criminal justice reform and the Olympics, among other matters. The official added, “There will be plenty of available opportunities, and right now it’s premature to speculate.”
Financial obligations could be a factor
Kushner was previously CEO of Kushner Companies, the real-estate firm founded by his father, Charles Kushner. The company is largely family-run, in part because the Kushners prefer it that way, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
Charles Kushner is likely to expect his son to return to the business, this person said, and with the relationships Jared Kushner has established in recent years with leaders of deep-pocketed Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, he could potentially leverage those connections going forward in the family business or other business ventures.
Trump, too, left her position at the Trump Organization upon moving to Washington, but she retained passive stakes in the business. She receives fixed guaranteed payments for some of her assets as well as a financial interest in the Trump International Hotel Washington, DC, for which she played a key role in closing the deal, and which is home to the first “Spa by Ivanka Trump.” She reported $3.9 million in income from the hotel in 2019.
And though she has sought to position herself as a sunny, polished figure who is distinct from her father’s brash ways, she is valued at the company for her ability to channel his whims and preferences.
Several months before the 2016 opening of the DC hotel, she made an impression with staff by comparing three identical-looking shades of gold painted on the ornate filigree atop one of the arched doorways in the hotel’s ballroom and declaring one the obvious choice for a Trump property.
While the couple remains wealthy, their financial obligations could factor into their post-White House decision making.
While working at the White House, Kushner has taken out two loans from Bank of America, one in 2017 and one in 2019, each ranging between $5 million and $25 million, according to his financial disclosure form. Both loans, which were taken out jointly with limited liability companies, are due in 2022.
The family business, which owns residential properties with hundreds of tenants, will also likely face challenges from the pending housing crisis. One $285 million loan, taken out in 2016 for a Times Square retail complex, is underwater after one tenant filed for bankruptcy, according to TreppWire, a real estate data analytics firm.
For her part, Trump shut down her namesake fashion brand in 2018, and while the apparel line had performed well the year of the election, it suffered in the aftermath as anti-Trump boycotts of her line took hold.
And they face legal headaches back in New York, where Trump is being sued in federal court, along with her father and two eldest brothers, for allegedly collaborating with a fraudulent marketing scheme to prey on vulnerable and financially struggling investors, claims they have denied.
Kushner, too, has faced his share of legal concerns back home, where Brooklyn federal prosecutors were examining his family company’s use of an investment-for-immigration program, although that probe doesn’t appear to have been active in about two years.
One wild card is whether Trump’s taste for politics will stick as she has gotten a sense of her power to generate big political dollars. Since August, she headlined 38 events in multiple states and hosted nine fundraisers, garnering more than $35 million for her father’s campaign.
She has offered an alternative to the massive crowds, chants of “lock her up” and throngs disco-dancing to “YMCA” at her father’s rallies. At political events, she often sticks to speaking about matters she feels her father has succeeded in advancing, including job growth, economic stability, family tax credit and entrepreneurship.
Trump, however, recognizes that her future – now more than ever – is tied to her father, said a person familiar with the matter, adding that she came into the White House as Kushner, but now she has gone “Full MAGA.”
Several people told CNN in recent months that Trump is considering her own potential political future, which may be driving the more nuanced positions she has taken in contrast to with her brothers’ strident remarks on matters like immigration and, more recently, alleged voter fraud.
Since Election Day, the couple has kept a low profile, although a White House official tells CNN that both Trump and Kushner have been working at the White House.
Kushner, CNN has reported, has been part of the team tasked with fomenting a legal path forward for Trump’s baseless fight against the outcome of the election, while privately attempting to cajole the President into accepting his inevitable loss.
While ballots were still being tabulated in battleground states, three days after Election Day, Trump tweeted that legal votes should be counted, but “every illegally cast vote should not.”
But she added, “This is not a partisan statement,” noting, “free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy.”
Earlier this week, she appeared to validate the vote counting that has continued well past Election Day by celebrating media organizations declaring that the President won in Alaska after a flurry of outstanding ballots were counted.
It struck a softer tone than her father’s nonstop baseless railing against what he has called a “fraud” and “hoax” voting process.
Returning to a changed social circuit
Despite their presence at Manhattan society events pre-White House, including parties thrown by the Kushner family-owned New York Observer newspaper, which drew the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Padma Lakshmi, Chuck Close, Katie Couric and Michael Bloomberg, the two have never been known to maintain an extensive circle of friends in New York, people familiar with the matter said, instead spending much of their free time with family and acquaintances from their Orthodox Jewish community.
And while Kushner is close with his brother, Joshua Kushner, as well as a friend from Harvard, financier Nitin Saigal, and Trump remains friendly with Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng, according to people familiar with the matter, some of their other New York pals have hit hurdles in recent years.
Kushner’s friend Adam Neumann resigned as CEO amid disarray at the company he founded, WeWork. And Ken Kurson, a close friend of the couple, was arrested on federal cyberstalking charges in late October.
Outside of their immediate social circle, they are unlikely to receive the types of invitations they scored pre-White House. Vogue Editor-in-Chief and Condé Nast Artistic Director Anna Wintour has made no secret of her distaste for the President and his politics, and Wintour’s preferences determine invitations to the Met Gala.
Trump’s currency as a glossy fashion magazine feature star – which she last flaunted in Harper’s Bazaar in September 2016, during the thick of the campaign, wearing a $6,990 Carolina Herrera gown while perched on a ladder overlooking the Manhattan skyline – has declined as well.
One former editor at a prestigious magazine who remains an in demand stylist said Trump will struggle with reentering the fashion orbit. “The fashion industry is a very liberal, Democratic leaning group,” he said, “and I just don’t see them welcoming them back – professionally or socially – with open arms.”
New York tabloids, which helped propel the President to fame and chronicled the social rise of his children broke in recent days from promoting the administration’s agenda, with even the New York Post urging the President to end his “stolen election” complaints.
Their New York neighbors, meanwhile, may have similar gripes. Co-inhabitants of their apartment complex include the President’s former – and now estranged – lawyer Michael Cohen and his daughter Samantha, who has described Trump snubbing her in their building’s lobby, despite having come over to dine on her dad’s “famous” lasagna.
“One time she told on me after she saw me smoking cigarettes outside of our building,” Samantha Cohen told Vanity Fair. “It was so lame.”
They may find some support close to home – a US Secret Service source said the two have been a favored assignment because they are “very good to their detail.” They get to know them, he said, and ask after their families.
Other employees on the family payroll say they are caring employers. One nanny (there have been up to three employed at once, per a source familiar) has been with them for several years, and “is treated like a member of the family,” said a hair stylist who counted Trump as a client and who often witnessed her interactions with others.
But New Yorkers broadly aren’t exactly aligned with the couple’s political leanings. In 2016, about 9 out of 10 Manhattanites voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. With more than 60% of the state’s votes counted as of Thursday night, Biden is projected to win Manhattan by a similar margin.
That may portend reactions like the one Kargman said she could foresee displaying if she encounters Trump back in Manhattan.
“I would yell ‘Shame!’ at her, like to Cersei Lannister in ‘Game of Thrones,’” Kargman said. “Just yell, ‘shame, shame, shame,’ at her, in that same rhythmic pattern.”
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that billboard images of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were not removed but also placed on a barge and trucks.