NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – It was sweet redemption for Charles Kushner last year when his son Jared was named senior White House adviser. A dozen years earlier, a sordid scandal stemming partly from a family falling-out had reduced the senior Kushner from real estate baron to felon making wallets at a prison camp in Alabama.
Now, with his son newly installed as a top aide to the president, Kushner even expressed hope, one close family friend said, that he might receive a pardon.
Absolution, however, is not what the White House has conferred on the Kushners. For the patriarch and his family, the pinnacle of American political power has turned out to be a wellspring of trouble.
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Jared Kushner is embroiled in the special counsel inquiry, including questions about whether he discussed the family’s business with foreign officials – a suggestion he has denied. His younger brother, Josh, has opposed the Trump presidency, driving a wedge between the men in a family that prizes close ties.
The elder Kushner, his company and his family are assailed by criminal and regulatory inquiries largely rooted in their newfound access to presidential power. The family’s East Coast-based real estate empire is under a fiscal and ethical cloud, shunned by some investors who fear being dragged into the spotlight trained on the Kushner nexus with President Donald Trump.
Two major Manhattan properties are on creditors’ watch lists, one after foreign investors backed out of a financing deal.
In a recent interview in his 15th-floor office at 666 Fifth Ave. – an aluminum-clad Manhattan skyscraper that has become a symbol of the family’s troubles – Charles Kushner brushed it all aside as false insinuations whipped into a publicity frenzy partly by political opponents.
Slender, silver-haired and impeccably dressed, Kushner, 63, was by turns charming, blunt and philosophical, an engaging contrast to Jared Kushner’s more stilted persona. He made little effort to hide his contempt for the investigations of his business and family, saying that the stacks of records he has voluntarily given investigators rebut any suggestion of impropriety.
“Go knock yourselves out for the next 10 years,” he said. “We didn’t do anything wrong.”
A long list of investigators are testing that claim. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are studying whether one of Kushner’s daughters dangled White House influence before prospective Chinese investors. So is the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Brooklyn federal prosecutors also are investigating the terms on which Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, refinanced a Kushner-owned property in Times Square.
State regulators in New York are examining Kushner loans from that bank and two others, including lines of credit to Jared Kushner. Jared Kushner’s White House meetings with lenders and partners of Kushner Cos. have raised repeated questions about conflicts between his official and personal interests.
Most recently, the head of the federal Office of Government Ethics informed a House member in a letter that he had asked the White House counsel to examine meetings in the White House last year between Jared Kushner and officials from two financial companies. The companies later lent Kushner Cos. more than a half-billion dollars.
The meetings were reported earlier by The New York Times; the letter was reported by CNN. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday that the counsel’s office was not investigating whether Kushner broke the law. Charles Kushner described the loans as arm’s-length transactions that did not involve his son.
On top of all of this, the political prize at the root of those travails – Jared Kushner’s White House post – appears to be losing its luster. Although he remains Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, 37, was stripped of his top-secret security clearance in February for reasons that remain undisclosed. Kushner, who friends say was taken aback by the decision, has avoided questions about how he will fulfill his once-sweeping White House duties without that privilege.
He has also lost some of his closest allies: two aides, Reed Cordish and Josh Raffel, recently announced their exits, as did Gary D. Cohn, the president’s economic adviser. Still hoping to make an impact on global affairs, Kushner has turned his attention from the Middle East stalemate to US relations with Mexico.
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