Date: Sunday, May 17, 2020
I am writing to request leniency when I appear in court to be sentenced for my “crimes.”
None of us choose our parents but we all choose our in-laws and if I had chosen mine more wisely my freedom wouldn’t hang in the balance. Because this is no unpaid parking ticket, skipped alimony payment, shoplifting a pair of argyle socks from Bloomingdale’s rap, and I want you to know that while I understand the gravity of my situation, I do not quake from the ramifications. But: I didn’t commit any crime, large or small, never mind what the government claims or my conviction for collusion with a foreign power and obstruction of justice might indicate. I know I was tried and convicted in the media, who clearly have their knives out for me, and then in a court of law. But none of the people who sat in judgment have any idea who I actually am. So I want you to get a sense of the real Jared Kushner, not the one you’ve been hearing about. I want you to know the truth, which I sincerely believe can still be objective. At least sometimes. Not all the time, I grant you. But a lot.
You see a person’s name in the newspaper, observe their face on television and think you know them. When I was a kid, there was a sitcom about a family. I must have seen every episode and I thought I knew those actors, really knew them. They showed up in my house every week like clockwork, getting into scrapes, saying funny things, and — you get the idea. But I didn’t know those actors any more than I knew Vladimir Putin. Well, I ran into one of them back when I still flew commercial. I’m sitting next to him in first class, we’re each having a mineral water, the stewardess has just handed out the warm towels, and I try to start a conversation because he felt so familiar. I figure we’ll have a little back and forth and maybe I’ll tell him a joke. He basically ignored me. Whatever. He’s a busy television star and I only knew him in my mind. In other words, a person may think they know me because they’re familiar with my face, but that is not the case. Cute story about that actor: He was up for a part on a show at a television network run by a friend of mine so I made a phone call and I’m not saying that’s the reason he didn’t get the job but his behavior on the plane did not help. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people, does it?
Let me tell you about myself. Before all the trouble began, I had the perfect life and when I say perfect, I don’t mean to incite jealousy and envy but, I can tell you, I’d be lying if I said jealousy and envy didn’t occur occasionally. More than occasionally, to tell you the truth. Pretty much every day (although not lately, haha!). I don’t blame people, I really don’t. Young, handsome, slender as a poor man’s money clip, married to a beautiful, worldly woman with whom I have three healthy, attractive children, all of them above average in every way, perhaps even gifted. I went to the best schools, religious and secular, was a good son, fine sibling, devoted grandson. I kept the Sabbath holy and this is a point I’d like to linger on for a moment, if you’ll indulge me. When my time comes, may it be many years in the future, it is not temporal law that matters. However: I know it is temporal law that could send me to federal prison where I would be forced to shower with a class of people I generally try to avoid, so I do recognize that it sort of matters.
Before all this happened, I ran a successful business in a highly competitive industry. In New York City, which is the toughest market in the country. I didn’t found the business; my grandfather did. He’s a Holocaust survivor, a fact I mention to honor him and is in no way intended to make the court sympathetic to me. The only thing I ever “survived” was a hazing ritual at summer camp where the older boys blindfolded me, then dropped me in a ditch filled with mud which they told me was cow poop. That I could handle. If I had to go through what my grandparents did I don’t know what. So my grandfather, as I was saying, passed the business, already doing nicely thank-you-very-much, on to my father who rolled up his sleeves and turned it into something they write books about. Not that it wasn’t impressive before, but what my father did for the family interests, they should teach courses on in business school. A regular King Herod of Livingston, New Jersey, if you know what I mean. And he was a mensch, as impressive a philanthropist as anyone you know, generous like you wouldn’t believe. Forgive the digression but I’m proud of him. Long marriage to my mother, devoted father and grandfather, the kind of parent a kid grows up wanting to emulate. Not in every way, because who’s perfect? But in most ways, he was my role model. Did he serve time in federal prison? Yes, he did. But more to the point, the man was a wonderful parent, good and sensitive, deeply devoted to his loved ones, although not to his conniving sister to whom he sent a videotape of her husband with a hooker to keep them from testifying against him; but, as I said, who’s perfect? When my father was hounded by a vindictive prosecutor (no offense!) and had to go to prison I stepped into the breach not because I wanted to or was ready — I was a young man, some would even say (did say) callow — but because it was my obligation, an idea we take seriously in our family. And I’ve been in charge ever since. I have several siblings, but there was never any doubt on whose shoulders this responsibility would fall. No one in my family has complained, either. I know what I’m doing is the point. At the highest levels.
Forgive me if it sounds like bragging, I’m really very humble.
So how did my life turn into such a rampaging grease fire? That, sir, is a complicated question. I am not entirely sure myself, but what I will not do is blame the collection of lowlifes, scoundrels, and outright sociopaths who surrounded my father-in-law. There is no dignity in recrimination and I am intent on restoring my lost honor and reclaiming my good name. Here’s what I do know: none of this would have happened if I had been content with my business career and my amazing family to whom I remain endlessly devoted.
But then my father-in-law decided to run for President.
As the winter of 2015 tumbled into 2016 I observed this development from a distance, not without some amusement, and only intermittently paid attention since, like any billionaire, I had plenty of other things to occupy me. Then one day he called to ask if I’d be willing to help him out, serve as a sort of consigliere. My father-in-law is a powerful personality, a man to whom it’s hard to say “No.” Eventually his American lenders figured out how to say “No,” but for most individuals it was a difficult thing. I did not want to work with him at first. As I said, my life was already pretty fabulous. His White House bid was the longest of long shots. He had done it before and the general consensus was the previous noises he made about wanting to be President were mostly about getting publicity for his various golf courses and hotels thereby increasing the odds of having sex with women he wasn’t married to. The upshot was that no one took him seriously. Moreover, the punditry, the intelligentsia, and anyone who lived in New York City in the 1980s believed him to be a total joke, a sideshow, a tabloid-driven, possibly syphilitic playboy. Who was his constituency anyway, plutocrats on one end of the spectrum and brain-dead fans of his tacky reality show on the other? How could a campaign built on such shaky foundations possibly go anywhere? Donald was no idiot; even he didn’t believe he could win. So when he invited me to join his campaign, instead of answering right away, I asked him to let me think about it. In that blunt way of his, he told me I had until tomorrow morning. When I got off the phone, the first thing I did was talk to Ivanka.
“You absolutely cannot do this,” she said.
We were in the kitchen of our Park Avenue penthouse with a view of Manhattan you would sell your grandmother for. Not you, personally, Your Honor, it’s just a figure of speech, but the view would make your eyeballs roll out of your head.
“Well, that’s a surprise,” I said.
“Is it?” she said. “You know my father. He’s got retrograde attitudes about women and blacks, the company has international deals that are not going to appear kosher if anyone ever decides to take a closer look, and there’s a 17-year-old Mexican-American cabana boy at Mar-a-Lago who looks just like him.”
“But he seems to really want me to help him out.”
“Do you have any idea of the words that came out of his mouth on the set of Celebrity Apprentice?” Since I was not part of the production and rarely on the set I was unaware that anything unusual had taken place. “You would have thought he was a Klan member.”
“Really?” This came as a surprise. When it came to race relations, my father-in-law may have been old school, but he was friends with Don King.
“It’s about brand enhancement,” she said. “Don’t you have enough on your plate?”
Well, yes. I had plenty on my plate. But there was something about the prospect of a Presidential campaign, however delusional it may have seemed given not only the history of the candidate but what he was: the buffoonish aspect, the absurd coiffure, the “model” wife who had been photographed for a men’s magazine writhing naked on a bear skin — it was like the circus coming to town, and I mean the circus before animal rights groups made them stop using the elephants, the whole circus, elephants, lions, and clowns. And the ringmaster was my father-in-law. What kid could resist that? Not this one.
“I think I’m going to do it,” I said.
“Let me ask you one question.”
“Shoot,” I said.
Was she pondering the tension between the political and the personal or the moral obligation owed by those to whom the system’s benefits have accrued? Ivanka was the deep one in our family and it was always difficult to guess what philosophical conundrum she was wrestling with.
“If he becomes President, who’s going to want to buy my shoes?”
That night I lay awake. What did I have to offer a flamboyant candidate who inevitably said the first thing that popped into his head whether or not it was true, insulted his friends and enemies in equal measure, and took advice from Rudy Giuliani? While Ivanka serenely slept, I stared at the ceiling and contemplated my future. Yes, I had obligations that needed my attention, deals in the offing that I had been cultivating, my family’s long term well-being to consider, but an opportunity like this might never come to me again. The next morning, I downed two cups of coffee because I needed to be completely clearheaded. Then I called my father-in-law.
Before I could get two words out, he said: “Welcome aboard, Jared.”
“I haven’t given you my decision,” I said, amazed as usual by his astuteness.
“In 15 minutes, a car will be in front of your building to take you to my beautiful jet,” he said. “Don’t pack a bag, we’ll be back tonight.”
“I have a morning filled with meetings.”
“Cancel them. We’re flying to Cincinnati for a rally.”
I told him I would be waiting on the sidewalk.
Ivanka was supervising our nanny Esmerelda (hired legally, paid generously, taxed appropriately) as she poured non-GMO, sugar-free cereal for the kids, all three of whom were gathered in the breakfast nook.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” she said. It was highly unusual for her to swear in front of the children, or at all, really. Especially after she converted.
“He really wanted me to do it.” I had showered, shaved, put on a suit.
“My father really wants a lot of things,” she said, weary and exasperated.
“Why don’t we discuss this when the kids go to school,” I said.
“Because you’ll be on your way to Ohio by then.”
“You really don’t want me to do this?”
“Jared, we have a perfect life,” she said, not incorrectly. “Why would you want to put everything at risk?”
“How am I putting anything at risk?”
“Because you can actually help him win.”
“And then he’ll be the President!”
“That’s my point! My father is a reality show star and a real estate branding guy with multiple bankruptcies.”
“None of them personal.”
“You sound like him! No, none of the bankruptcies were personal, but if he knew what he was doing, he never would have been in those situations. I love my father and, from the bottom of my heart, he would make a terrible President.”
When I heard that, I was incredulous. Coming from his own daughter? How was being President any harder than running a successful business? And was Esmerelda nodding in agreement with my wife, or had I imagined that? “Well, I disagree.”
Ivanka collapsed into a chair, put her head in her hands, and moaned. “Everyone’s going to blame me! They’ll say I’m his enabler. Why does he even want to be President?”
“Because he loves America.”
“He loves golf!”
That was an entirely accurate observation. But there are two points I’d like to make. The first concerns whether my father-in-law actually loved America. He professed to, for sure. Sang it from the rooftops. Yes, he let himself get distracted — “We’re living in a hellscape,” “Obama’s a Kenyan,” “Muslims in New Jersey cheered when the twin towers came down” — but he knew this country worked well for guys like him. The fact of the matter is Trump loved America when it served his needs. If his needs were served by loving Bolivia, he would have loved Bolivia. And what Trump loved more than golf and America, was himself. Here’s the second point: I chose not to notice that Ivanka’s father was a narcissistic lunatic because of my own flaws which, I grant you, are not readily apparent. And because I’m human, rather than being dissuaded, I found myself propelled on a course that would bring ruination to us all. I take responsibility, I’m sorry for my actions, and I’d like to be allowed to go home tomorrow.
Did I collude with a foreign power? If assuring Sergey Kislyak that America would do nothing if Russia happens to annex Latvia while simultaneously coordinating an internet dropbox with Julian Assange constitutes “colluding,” then I’m not sure I understand the meaning of the word. Did I obstruct justice by lying about these things under oath? Honestly, it depends how you define what it means to “obstruct justice.” Perhaps we can agree that one of my father-in-law’s positive contributions to American life has been to decouple certain old-fashioned phrases from their formerly agreed-upon meanings thereby freeing the English language to achieve its fullest potential.
As you know, President Ryan has refused to pardon me (probably because his pardon of former Vice-President Pence was so controversial!). So as the former leader of the free world said in another context, I would be remarkably grateful if you could see your way to letting this go. And if he, my soon to be ex-father-in-law, had not fled to Saudi Arabia I know he would tell you the same thing.