The Story of Rise, Fall, and Pardon of Charles Kushner

Charles Kushner, the father of Jared Kushner, received a full pardon from former President Donald Trump, along with 26 others in December 2020. Jared Kushner was the then-senior advisor to ex-President Donald J. Trump. Charles Kushner was previously convicted of committing bizarre tax fraud and served almost two years in prison.

The pardon clears his name and eliminates his criminal record. If you are also curious to know about Charles Kushner, and what is his claim to fame besides being the father of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, keep on reading.

Charles Kushner: Holocaust Roots to Political Influence

Charles Kushner’s story from a son of Holocaust survivors to an esteemed figure in the real estate and political sectors reflects his resilience and entrepreneurial spirit. Growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he watched his father, Joseph, work hard as a carpenter and later thrive as a property manager.

After graduating from New York University in 1976, Kushner pursued further education, earning an MBA and a law degree. He worked as a lawyer before launching a successful real estate business with his father and brother-in-law.

Rather than building new properties, they acquired existing ones, raising rental income by upgrading their value. As successful as his business became, it also served as a mechanism for political fundraising. Engaged with state and national politics, Kushner threw his support behind several candidates and helped plan fundraising events with President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

He even became chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey when Governor McGreevey appointed him to the position. Kushner’s contributions to politics exceeded financial support, as he actively immersed himself in shaping the political landscape, becoming a trusted advisor to several influential figures. His remarkable journey succeeded due to his tenacity, resourcefulness, and dedication to business and politics.

Charles Kushner’s Family Feud and Federal Investigation

Charles Kushner was at the center of a family feud that turned into a federal investigation. The dispute arose when his brother and former partner, Murray, accused him of mishandling campaign contributions. This led to a criminal case pursued by former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who accused Kushner of defrauding the IRS by using political contributions to claim false office expenses.

He also lied to the Federal Election Commission about his business partners’ political contributions. But that was not all, as Kushner also paid $25,000 for a plot to send a videotape of his sister’s husband with a prostitute to his sister.  Christie’s office said this was an attempt to intimidate his sister who had sided with Murray in the tax case and became a witness in the federal investigation.

Kushner acknowledged his wrongdoing and pleaded guilty to violating tax and campaign laws, and obstruction of justice. He served 14 months of a two-year sentence in federal prison.

The Shocking Scandal Surrounding Charles Kushner

When Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to federal charges, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie condemned the wealthy businessman’s actions as “loathsome” and “disgusting.” In an interview years later, Christie stood by his words and noted that the charges were well-deserved given Kushner’s heinous offenses.

Kushner had not only committed tax fraud but had also orchestrated a scheme to hire a prostitute and send the tape to his sister in an attempt to scare her away from testifying in the case against him. Christie made it clear that such actions would not be excused and that everyone, no matter their wealth or power, would be held accountable if they broke the law.

However, the scandal continued to affect the Kushner family, as Christie’s role in prosecuting Charles eventually led Jared Kushner to seek revenge. The younger Kushner played a role in pushing Christie out of the Trump administration and blocking any consideration for him as vice president.

Despite this, Christie maintains that he and Jared have no personal issues and that their past differences are “ancient history.” Yet, Christie’s memoir suggests that Jared’s grudge against him ran deep and impacted Christie’s career.

Examining Kushner’s Pardon

After granting pardons to nearly 50 individuals, President Trump also extended clemency to Charles Kushner. The move came after Brett Tolman, a former U.S. Attorney, Matt Schlapp, and David Safavian of the American Conservative Union recommended Kushner for a pardon.

In justifying his decision, Trump cited Kushner’s efforts to support philanthropic organizations like Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy, despite his conviction and two-year sentence for various crimes, including witness retaliation, false tax returns, and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. While a presidential pardon does not necessarily indicate innocence, it can benefit the recipient in various ways.

For example, it can help remove certain civil disabilities from the conviction, such as the inability to hold public office, vote, or sit on juries. Additionally, a pardon can reduce the negative social stigma that often accompanies a criminal conviction and may be helpful in securing employment or bonding.

Furthermore, according to the Justice Department, a pardon is generally granted after the applicant demonstrates acceptance of responsibility and good conduct over a significant time following the completion of their sentence.

In Kushner’s case, he had already served his sentence and was no longer under any supervision, so the presidential pardon had no immediate practical effect. Regardless, the decision highlights the president’s discretion in granting clemency and raises questions about the criteria used in the process.

Current Status of Kushner Companies’ Real Estate Holdings

Despite the scandal, Kushner Companies remains actively engaged in the New Jersey real estate market with a number of ongoing development projects.  One recent undertaking has been a settlement with Jersey City to construct the Journal Square twin towers which will be completed in the first quarter of 2024 and will include a parking garage for residents as well as retail and amenity space.

Additionally, Kushner Companies received approval in January 2020 to build nearly 600 apartments along with extensive retail on largely vacant property in Long Branch at the eastern end of the city’s downtown area.  In 2019 op-ed, Charles Kushner defended his family business, including his son Jared’s role in it, and highlighted the company’s financial stability amid media scrutiny and negative portrayals of the family.

Given the Kushner Companies’ ongoing investment in real estate in New Jersey, it appears that the family is maintaining its interests in the state despite past controversies.

Bottom Line

Despite the scandal involving Charles Kushner’s conviction for tax fraud and witness retaliation, the family’s real estate business continues to thrive, with ongoing development projects in New Jersey. However, the scrutiny and negative portrayal of the family remains a constant challenge.

The pardon of Charles Kushner by former President Trump clears his name and eliminates his criminal record, but it raises questions about the process and the criteria used in granting clemency. Regardless, the story of the Kushner family, with Charles Kushner as a central figure, serves as a reminder of the complexities and challenges of combining business and politics in American society.

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