Long before he shot to political stardom as a senior advisor to former President Donald Trump in the late 20-teens or even married model Ivanka Trump nearly a decade earlier, Jared Kushner was a New York City businessman grappling with both the real estate market — and his family’s jaw-dropping drama.
From his formative years to helping his father, Charles Kushner, navigate his legal woes, here’s a look inside Jared’s life long before joining the Trump family.
Despite graduating from Harvard University in 2003 with a B.A. in government, some suspicions have arisen surrounding how, exactly, Jared nabbed a spot at the prestigious Ivy League school.
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,’’ an official from the figure’s former New Jersey school spilled to The Guardian back in 2016, adding that “his GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it.”
“We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen,” they continued. "Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.’’
As such, rumors began to swirl surrounding how money may have played a role in Jared’s acceptance, with ProPublica reporting that Charles had promised a $2.5 million donation to the university as his son began scoping out colleges.
A representative for Kushner Companies ultimately denied “the allegation,” as she dubbed it, explaining that any alleged connection between this donation and Jared’s acceptance was “is and always has been false.”
“[Charles and Seryl Kushner] are enormously generous and have donated over 100 million dollars to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes,” Risa Heller told the nonprofit newsroom of Jared's parents at the time. “Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honors,” she continued, though as the outlet noted, roughly 90 percent of Jared’s Ivy League could also claim the latter achievement.
Dad's Legal Drama
The questions surrounding Jared’s college admissions isn’t the Kushner family’s only scandal. In 2003, officials began probing Charles over whether he had made any illegal campaign donations. Their efforts were aided by William Schulder, the mogul’s brother-in-law and former business associate.
Upon learning that Schulder was helping with this investigation, the once highly-respected real estate developer fired back, devising a plan in which he hired a sex worker for his in-law, who was married to his sister at the time, and recorded their sexual encounter. Charles then showed the incriminating tape to his sister.
Nearly two years following the initial investigation, Charles was convicted of multiple crimes, including witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions and tax fraud. He served 14 months in federal prison before completing his sentence in a halfway house, a debacle that seriously impacted Jared.
“After a couple days of spending time with him and getting that situation as settled as it was going to get, I get back to New York, back to my apartment on Mercer Street and I basically just sat on the floor and I started crying,” he recalled in an interview last month.
Part of these intense emotions, Jared said, came from grappling with how drastically his life had changed. “I realized that there was a lot of things I was angry at,” he explained, naming that at the time, he felt irked at several parties, including both his dad as well as the individuals who prosecuted the case.
Yet amid these tough feelings, Jared said he came to a realization that shaped his perspective on the world.
“Any time there was a challenge, a lot of people get very angry or trying to figure out why it happened or what they could’ve done different,” the businessman revealed. “I always would just say ‘OK, well, it is what it is, how do I take the variables we have and try to make it as good as it can be?’”
Dealing With Donald
In 2007, roughly two years after Charles’ emotional conviction, Jared met his future wife, Ivanka, through a mutual friend, who seemingly introduced the pair for business reasons.
“They very innocently set us up thinking that our only interest in one another would be transactional,” Ivanka recalled of her husband in 2015. “Whenever we see them, we’re like, ‘The best deal we ever made!’”
Though Jared and Ivanka, who were both 25 when they first started dating, briefly called it quits in 2008 due to religious differences — the real estate mogul and his family are Modern Orthodox Jews — the pair ultimately reconciled, with Ivanka beginning the process of converting to the faith.
Prior to popping the question, Jared spoke with the model’s famous father about the state of their romance in context with Judaism.
"I could feel my voice shake as I managed to say that Ivanka and I were getting more serious and that she was in the process of converting," Jared recalled in his new memoir, Breaking History: A White House Memoir.
"Well, let me ask you a question. Why does she have to convert? Why can’t you convert?" his soon-to-be father-in-law reportedly quipped.
After explaining that it had been Ivanka’s choice to convert to Judaism, The Apprentice icon fired back, noting that Jared had football star Tom Brady was also reportedly interested in his daughter.