On January 9, 2016, the day before he turned 36, Jared Corey Kushner received an early birthday present: Donald Trump, the president-elect at the time, had selected him to be senior adviser to the president, a position that does not require Senate approval.

Kushner had been a close adviser to Trump throughout the campaign. He held no official title in the operation but, in a phenomenon not out of keeping with Trump’s management style in the private sector, Kushner quickly rose to a position of nearly unrivaled power. 

He reportedly played a role in ousting Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, in June 2016 and his second campaign manager Paul Manafort two months later. He is believed to have convinced Trump to hire Gary Cohn, the president and COO of Goldman Sachs, to head the National Economic Council. According to a rare interview given to Forbes, Kushner controlled the campaign's digital strategy, developing a sophisticated system for targeting voters that drew on Silicon Valley ideas and, in some cases, talent. When calls to Trump flooded in following the election, it was Kushner who answered the phone.

Like Trump, he has no government experience.

Possible Nepotism 

Choosing a trusted and instrumental campaign adviser to play a similar role in the Trump administration may seem natural, yet the appointment raised eyebrows, because Kushner is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka. The media immediately questioned the legality of the appointment, since a 1967 anti-nepotism law bars a "public official" from hiring or promoting a family member to a position in an "agency." Though Trump is a public official, the White House argued it is not an agency, giving the incoming administration leeway to make the hire.

On Inauguration Day, the Department of Justice issued an opinion saying that Kushner could take the role, based not on the "agency" question per se, but on a 1978 law allowing the president to make hiring and compensation decisions "without regard to any other provision of law regulating the employment or compensation of persons in the Government service." 

The Senior Adviser Role

The role of senior adviser to the president has existed formally since 1993, when Bill Clinton took office. Rahm Emanuel, who would later serve as Barack Obama's chief of staff, was the first to serve in the position. Kushner will share the title with Stephen Miller, a 30-year old who served as Jeff Sessions' communications director.

Kushner will work with Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon to carry out Trump's agenda. A primary focus will be Middle East policy. Referring to Kushner, Trump told a crowd on the eve of his inauguration, "If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can." Kushner and his wife are Orthodox Jews. The Trump administration has already begun to spark resentment among Palestinians by calling for the U.S. embassy to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and by appointing David Friedman, who supports the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, to be ambassador to Israel. The moves have earned praise from some Jewish groups.

According to reports citing a source close to Trump's transition team, Kushner's portfolio will be "wide-ranging" and will include trade deals and government operations. He will not take a salary.

Personal and Family History

Like Trump, Kushner grew up in wealthy New York real estate family. He attended Harvard, gaining admission – according to a book by Daniel Golden – after his family made a $2.5 million donation to the school. 

Two years after graduating with a degree in sociology, Kushner saw his father Charles plead guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering. The prominent Democratic donor spent 14 months in a federal prison in Alabama, where Jared visited him almost weekly. The prosecutor in the case was the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

At the time, rumor had it that Christie, who would take office as New Jersey's Republican governor in 2010, had pursued Charles Kushner in order to cut off Democratic governor Jim McGreevey (who resigned in 2004 amid a sex scandal) from his most generous source of funding. A decade later, rumor had it that Kushner had a hand in ousting Christie, who spent only a couple of days heading Trump's transition team following the election. Sources close to the transition said the motive was Christie’s alleged involvement in the Bridgegate scandal – nothing to do with a vengeful Kushner.

After Harvard, Kushner earned a law degree and an MBA from New York University. At the same time he began investing family money; like Trump, he got an early start in business. In 2006, at the age of 25, he bought the New York Observer, a pink tabloid known for its coverage of Manhattan social life and as the inspiration for Sex and the City. According to the New York Times, some of the paper's reporters accused Kushner of "interfering in coverage." The paper endorsed Trump in the Republican primaries.

Also in 2006, Kushner paid $1.8 billion for 666 Fifth Avenue, a 41-story office building in midtown Manhattan. At the height of the real estate bubble, the price was the most ever spent on an individual building in the country. The seller received three times what they'd paid for the property six years prior. When the bubble burst, outside investors swooped in to save the Kushner empire from going under.

At some indeterminate point in the following two to six years, Kushner became the CEO of the family business. He would lead acquisitions totalling $7 billion, often with the help of foreign funding, according to the New York Times. In January, the Times reported that Kushner had met with Wu Xiaohui, the head of Anbang Insurance, shortly after the election. Anbang's ownership structure is not clear, but Wu and other board members have close ties to the Chinese government.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

The confluence of foreign deals and Kushner's unique influence within the Trump administration – he acted as intermediary between Trump and the Chinese ambassador after Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen – has raised concerns about Kushner's potential conflicts of interest. Unlike Trump, Kushner is not exempted from conflict-of-interest laws.

According to Kushner's attorney Jamie Gorelick, Kushner will sell his interests in around 35 investments, including the Fifth Avenue office building and the Observer. The buyer will either be his brother Joshua, a venture capitalist, or a trust his mother controls. He will resign as CEO of Kushner Companies and separate himself from the management of the properties he retains. 

Ivanka, who does not hold an official role in the administration but has been highly influential in the campaign and transition – including sitting in on a post-election meeting between her father, her husband (who had not yet been appointed to his current role) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – will collect a fixed salary from the Trump Organization, but plans to leave her management role and distance herself from other business interests, including some in Japan. 

The couple has purchased a house in Washington.

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