The Biggest Controversies Surrounding Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner is best known as the husband of Ivanka Trump and the son-in-law of the former President of the United States Donald Trump. While Kushner's reputation isn't shrouded in nearly as much controversy as that of his famous father-in-law, he's not exactly squeaky clean, either. Kushner has a shady side, too. As the old saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.

During his short time at the White House, Kushner managed to tick off quite a few people, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Chris Christie, who served as the head of Trump's transition team, and Trump's former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. "The grift from this family is breathtaking," Christie once said about Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, while speaking at a New Hampshire town hall event. Alas, a purported grifter lifestyle is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the controversies surrounding Kushner.

Jared Kushner's Harvard admission seemed sketchy

Even before marrying into the Trump family, Jared Kushner was no stranger to the finer things in life including prestigious private schools and, yes, even Harvard. While most aspiring Harvardians need pristine grades and stellar SAT scores, Jared seemingly just needed a donation from his dear old dad, affluent real estate tycoon Charles Kushner.

The story goes that in 1998, Charles doled out a whopping $2.5 million to the school. Soon after, Jared received his acceptance letter. "There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard," a former administrator at Jared's private high school told author Daniel Golden in preparation for his book, "The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates," (via ProPublica). The administrator added, "His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it."

As for the Kushner family, they have always denied that they paid Jared's way into the Ivy League school. In an email to ProPublica, a spokesperson for Jared's parents vehemently denied the allegations surrounding their son's supposed improper acceptance. The spokesperson was also adamant that Jared was "was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honors."

Jared Kushner got tangled up in an unfair trade practice lawsuit

It's all in the family! As the heir of a real estate titan, Jared Kushner was quickly ushered into the family biz. However, the Kushner family's business practices regularly included scooping up apartment complexes in desperate need of repair and allegedly renting to tenants without fixing the buildings.

In 2019, the state of Maryland launched a lawsuit against 26 of the Kushner family's limited liability corporations, alleging that they were guilty of engaging in unfair or deceptive trade practices. "This is a case in which landlords deceived and cheated tenants and subjected them to miserable living conditions," Attorney General Brian Frosh said about the lawsuit (via ProPublica). "These were not wealthy people. Many struggled to pay the rent, to put food on the table, to take care of their kids, to keep everybody healthy, and Westminster used its vastly superior economic power to take advantage of them."

In 2022, the Kushner family and attorneys for the state of Maryland reached a settlement. While the Kushners agreed to shell out $3.25 million to the state, the family was careful to not admit guilt. "Westminster is pleased to have settled this litigation with no admission of liability or wrongdoing. We look forward to moving past this matter so that we can focus on our ever-expanding real estate portfolio," the Kushners said in a statement to the Baltimore Banner.

Jared Kushner was accused of colluding with Russia

In 2015, Jared Kushner eagerly hopped on board his father-in-law's presidential campaign that surprisingly landed Donald Trump in the White House. Kushner made quite a name for himself in the process. "It's hard to overstate and hard to summarize Jared's role in the campaign," Peter Thiel, the ultra-wealthy former C.E.O. of PayPal, told Forbes in 2016. "If Trump was the C.E.O., Jared was effectively the chief operating officer."

According to Kushner, the key was to run the campaign like a Silicon Valley tech startup. "I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff. They gave me their subcontractors," he told Forbes.

Alas, it wasn't too long until his role in the campaign came under serious scrutiny. In May 2017, The Washington Post reported that three anonymous sources alleged that Kushner conspired with Russia's United States ambassador to create a covert channel for Trump and Moscow to talk about Syria and various other issues. These allegations proved to be particularly damning given that the FBI was already in the midst of investigating Russia's role in interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Kushner, however, was adamant that all of his actions were proper. "I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so," he maintained during a public statement at the White House.

Jared Kushner was accused of being a White House nepo baby

On January 9, 2017, in a rather bold and unprecedented move, then-president-elect Donald J. Trump tapped none other than his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior White House adviser. Trump noted that his son-in-law was "a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition." The former president seemed to allude that Kushner was one of the few celeb nepotism babies who actually deserve the fame. Others, however, cried foul.

Critics of Kushner's ascension to White House advisor accused Trump of violating federal anti-nepotism laws. The Justice Department didn't agree with that assessment and argued that executive privilege allowed Trump to hire Jared. "We believe that the President's special hiring authority in 3 U.S.C. § 105(a) permits him to make appointments to the White House Office that the anti-nepotism statute might otherwise forbid," the department declared in a memorandum.

Kushner's attorney, Jamie S. Gorelick, later went on "Today" and staunchly defended her client. "I mean, I'm a Democrat. I think the president should be able to get advice from whomever he or she wants," she declared.  

Jared Kushner's business dealings with Saudi Arabia are questionable

Perhaps Jared Kushner's biggest controversial move to date is his business dealings with Saudi Arabia. In June 2022, the House committee announced it was opening an investigation into whether or not Kushner used his government position to secure a $2 billion investment for his private equity firm, Affinity Partners, merely six months after exiting his role at the White House. A spokesperson for Kushner denied any wrongdoing. "While achieving six peace deals in the Middle East, Mr. Kushner fully abided by all legal and ethical guidelines both during and after his government service," the statement read (via the New York Times).

The denial did little to shield Kushner from public criticism. "What was he doing galavanting all over the Middle East?" former federal prosecutor and governor of New Jersey Chris Christie wondered during an interview with conservative commentator Margaret Hoover. "We had the president's son-in-law being authorized by the president to undercut secretaries of state and to be dealing directly — and we know he dealt directly — with the leader of Saudi Arabia on a number of issues in addition to other foreign leaders in the Middle East. We're supposed to expect that it's just coincidence that Jared Kushner gets two billion dollars six months after he leaves office from the Saudi Sovereign wealth fund?" We'll let you be the judge.