Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law, is now serving as a senior adviser in the Trump administration. Though Jared did not have an official role during Trump’s campaign, he was nevertheless seen as a “de facto campaign manager,” and he later served as a member of Trump’s transition team.
The New York Times reported in November that Jared was exploring ways to join the Trump administration without breaking the federal anti-nepotism law and he was cleared by the Justice Department to serve in the administration in January. CNBC reported that Kushner would be resigning from his role as CEO at Kushner Companies and divesting his “substantial assets,” including his stakes in the Observer, where he served as publisher.
Jared is one of the most influential people in Trump’s circle. He has been called someone who “enjoys a Rasputin-like power” with Trump.
Here’s what you need to know about Jared Kushner:
1. His White House transition has reportedly been difficult.
Jared is considered to be part of the “power center” in the White House, reports the Washington Post, along with Steven Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Reince Priebus. But in the early days of the administration, Kushner appears to have gotten caught up in some workplace politics. Sources told the Washington Post that observers “have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.”
According to Vanity Fair, Jared’s adjustment to Washington has been tough. “Kushner appears unable to control both his father-in-law and those around him,” writes Emily Jane Fox. A source told Fox that Jared’s influence on Trump “may be flagging.” After Jared successfully negotiated a meeting with Mexico’s president, Trump canceled it, leaving Jared “fucking furious.” Not only that, Jared isn’t looking so great these days, according to Fox’s source. “His body language and his demeanor toward Trump had changed, and he had lost a noticeable amount of weight from his already slight frame in just a week.”
2. He has no prior experience in government or politics.
Apart from a semester as a member of the Institute of Politics during his freshman year at Harvard, Jared has not been engaged politically. While visiting the White House after the election, Jared reportedly asked, “How many of these people stay?” (Answer: Pretty much none.) Though comparatively inexperienced in politics, Jared has proved to be a quick study. “Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate,” Donald Trump said at a rally. “But he’s very good at politics.”
Jared’s personal political leanings are harder to identify. He fully backs his Republican father-in-law and publishes a newspaper that has become more conservative in its leanings since he purchased it. But he has stated in the past that he admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, and has a framed photo of John F. Kennedy, another Democrat, by his desk. Trump has said Kushner will help broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinans, telling him at a pre-inauguration, “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”
3. He was born into wealth.
Jared’s father, Charles “Charlie” Kushner, founded the real estate development organization Kushner Companies in 1985 and built it into a billion-dollar enterprise. Jared had a correspondingly privileged upbringing in New Jersey. According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Daniel Golden, Jared benefited from the incredible advantage of being his father’s son. Though he did not perform especially well academically, Jared was accepted to Harvard, reportedly after his father gave $2.5 million to the university. While at Harvard, Jared reportedly drove a Range Rover (though he has said that he “didn’t have a car” in college). About driving that Range Rover though: “He didn’t do it with a sense of humor,” a classmate told the New Yorker. “He did it, like, ‘I’m fucking rich.'”
4. He is an Orthodox Jew.
Jared’s wife, Ivanka Trump, converted to Judaism from Presbyterianism before the couple’s 2009 wedding. Religion — specifically, the Kushner family’s objection to the fact that Ivanka wasn’t Jewish — was reportedly one of the reasons for their brief breakup in 2008. Now, the couple are shomrei Shabbos. They observe the Sabbath, turning off cell phones and walking instead of driving between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. Jared did make an exception in early October, when he joined a team of Trump advisers on a Saturday to deal with the fallout of the Access Hollywood tape. He and Ivanka also received an exemption during Inauguration weekend so that they could participate in the evening celebrations.
5. He professes that Donald Trump is not an anti-Semite or a racist.
In July, when Trump tweeted (then deleted) an image from a white supremacist web forum of Hillary Clinton that featured the Star of David and the phrase “most corrupt candidate ever,” Jared defended his father-in-law in his newspaper, the Observer.
“It’s that simple, really,” he wrote. “Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic and he’s not a racist.” In the piece, Jared revealed the story of his grandparents, Holocaust survivors from Poland who emigrated to the United States in 1949. His family members called him out on Facebook for it. “That my grandparents have been dragged into this is a shame,” wrote Jared’s estranged cousin Jacob Schulder, according to Politico. “Thank you Jared for using something sacred and special to the descendants of Joe and Rae Kushner to validate the sloppy manner in which you’ve handled this campaign.”
Jared’s justification of his father-in-law’s racist statements has become even more questionable since Trump’s appointment of Ku Klux Klan-endorsed Steve Bannon to the role of chief strategist in the administration. Ultimately, Jared seems to have chosen loyalty to his family above all else.