This week’s cover story on Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and soon his senior adviser in the White House, recounted a formative episode in the subject’s life: the arrest of his father, Charles, in 2004, on charges of making illegal campaign donations, tax evasion, and witness tampering — the last charge having to do with an elaborate scheme to blackmail a family member with whom he was feuding. (A full recounting of the case can be found here.) In the story, I relate the impression — shared by many in New Jersey politics — that Kushner was targeted because of his high profile as a major donor to Democratic candidates, especially New Jersey’s governor at the time, Jim McGreevey. The elder Kushner first became a prominent player in New Jersey politics in 1997, when he backed McGreevey — then a relative unknown — as he made a surprisingly strong challenge to an incumbent Republican governor, Christine Todd Whitman. Four years later, McGreevey won the office, and appointed Charles Kushner to serve as a board member of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Shortly afterward, he nominated Kushner to serve as the bistate agency’s chairman. But Kushner’s relationship to the governor soon attracted the attention of newspapers, political opponents in the state legislature, and the United States Attorney for New Jersey at the time, Chris Christie. “The worst thing in the world is a prosecutor with political ambitions,” Richard Codey, a state senator and former governor who is close with Kushner told me. In the article, I write that to many seasoned practitioners of politics in New Jersey, Kushner’s flaw was “his craving for a public role.”
This morning, Governor McGreevey, who ultimately resigned shortly after Kushner’s arrest, wrote the editor of this magazine, Adam Moss, to say that the article did not accurately reflect the Charlie Kushner he knows, for whom he still expresses great affection. His message is reprinted in full below:
Dear Mr. Moss,
Thank you for the opportunity to correct a potential misperception.
As governor, I had three times beseeched Mr. Charles Kushner to join the Port Authority of NY and NJ. Mr. Kushner’s intellect, drive, and “get it done” skills would be invaluable in addressing the tragedy [at the] 9/11 site. At no time did Mr. Kushner ever seek service on the Port. Eventually, prevailing upon Mr. Kushner’s sense of civic duty, Charles acquiesced and he joined the Board.
While at the Port for a limited duration, Charles Kushner’s clarity of thinking, appreciation for the complexity of the challenge, and willingness to design a potential mechanism to resolve negotiations ensured that our region will be indebted for his reluctant appointment and all-too-welcome contribution.