Here is a theory: Jared Kushner blocked Chris Christie from becoming Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee as revenge for his father.
Back in summer 2004, Chris Christie, then-U.S. Attorney General for the District of New Jersey, negotiated a plea agreement with Charles Kushner, the head of a $2 billion real estate company and one of the most powerful and ruthless men in the state. Were it not for Christie’s investigation, Kushner, a close ally of then-governor Jim McGreevey, would likely have been appointed chairman of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority—a position that would have given him influence over billions of dollars in government contracts.
Kushner was accused, among other things, of blackmailing his brother-in-law—a witness in a federal investigation—by setting him up with a sex worker and filming their interactions. In August 2004, he pleaded guilty to 18 felony counts of tax fraud, election violations, and witness tampering. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison in Montgomery. His eldest son, Jared Kushner, flew down to Alabama every Sunday.
At the time, Jared was interning for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office, on break from New York University School of Law, where he was studying in a joint law-M.B.A. program. Jared was already being groomed to take over Kushner Properties. Previously, Charles used his political influence to get Jared into Harvard, according to The Price of Admission, calling in a favor with Senator Frank Lautenberg, who asked Ted Kennedy to ask the university president to make room for the young heir. The indictment moved the timeline forward.
Not that it seems to have mattered: Two years after his father entered his guilty plea, and having completely revamped the family business—moving away from New Jersey real estate and into New York City—Jared bought the New York Observer, a local weekly newspaper with a reputation for sharp reporting on the kinds of people who send their children to intern for the Manhattan district attorney, from its longtime owner, Arthur Carter. From a 2009 Gabriel Sherman profile in New York magazine:
The Kushners had never been lovers of newspapers, to say the least. Charlie and Jared blamed papers in general and more specifically the Newark Star-Ledger for besmirching the family name. The Kushners respected the Observer’s elite readership, but that was about all they liked about it. “I found the paper unbearable to read, it was like homework,” Jared tells me.
Jared, tall and blond and rosy-cheeked, had been trying to arrange a meeting with Carter for six months. Each time he called, Carter rebuffed him. “You’re a nice boy”—he said—“but you’re 25 years old.” Carter was on the verge of selling the Observer (where I was a reporter from 2003 to 2006) to Tribeca Film Festival founders Craig Hatkoff, Jane Rosenthal, and Robert De Niro. “The money was on the wire,” a person close to the De Niro camp says.
But Carter had doubts that the Tribeca people would actually be interested in keeping the newspaper afloat, and Jared managed to charm old man Carter into selling it to him instead.
The Manhattan elite welcomed Jared as one of their own. “You have to give Jared a lot of credit,” Stephen Ross, the chairman and majority owner of colossal real estate firm Related Companies, told Sherman. “I think buying a newspaper is a good way to make a name for yourself. He got everybody’s attention.” A few months after buying the paper, Jared started dating a fellow real estate scion: Ivanka Trump.
The family, however, did not forget those who had slighted it. “Be nice to my son. We’ve been killed enough by the press,” Charles said to Sherman, years after his release. “Just because I’ve been killed, don’t kill him.” Among the press that “killed” Charles, it seems worth noting, was the Observer—a publication that also regularly skewered Jared’s future father-in-law. No surprise, then, that Jared found the paper “unbearable to read.”
One might wonder whether Jared’s purchase and subsequent destruction of the Observer was an intentional act of vengeance for its coverage of his dad. (Vengeance being something like a family tradition, for the Kushners.) On the one hand, he’s a feckless idiot; on the other, according to a former Observer staffer, he once said his favorite book was The Count of Monte Cristo, which is of course the story of a man who uses fantastic wealth to carry out a years-long campaign of revenge. Also, we hear that—at one point, at least—he kept a chess set on display in his office.
Earlier this week, sources close to Christie told CNN that Jared was opposed to Trump picking the New Jersey governor. Jared is not only married to Trump’s favorite child but clearly has the presumptive Republican nominee’s ear, having reportedly so insinuated himself into his father-in-law’s presidential bid as to become a de facto campaign manager. “It’s obviously out there and it doesn’t help,” CNN’s sources said. “We’re just not sure if it hurts.”
In February, Chris Christie became the first high-profile Republican to endorse Trump, despite having throwing a fair few haymakers at him last summer and fall. The lengths to which Christie would go to win Trump’s favor quickly became apparent: he was rumored to have fetched the real estate developer food; was mocked for his weight; and roped his wife into the whole sad affair. In a word, the governor of New Jersey debased himself in the hopes that he would win the vice presidential nomination.
Presumably, Christie had obtained from Trump a promise of...something. VP? AG? Instead, he is out in the cold without even a speaking slot at the convention. Every rival candidate had to weigh the damage of holding out versus rolling over: He went all in for the rollover, and he got nothing.
If Jared wanted to utterly destroy Christie for prosecuting his father, it’s hard to imagine how he could have wreaked a more complete humiliation. Now trending on the Observer.com web page: 11 Hilarious Memes of Chris Christie Getting Snubbed as Trump’s VP Pick.