Promoting his memoir, Kushner offers tortured defenses of Trump

Testimony from Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to Donald Trump, plays at the 8th public hearing of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, July 21, 2022. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — While making the rounds promoting his new memoir, Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, last week faced the question he had managed to avoid commenting on publicly for months: Did he agree with Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election were they stolen?

“I think there are different words,” Kushner told talk show host Megyn Kelly during a friendly interview on SiriusXM. “I think there are a bunch of different approaches that different people and different theories have taken.”

Pressed to say whether Trump lost, Kushner demurred. “I think it was a very close election,” he said. “I think there are a lot of issues that I think if they were tried differently they might have different knowledge about them.”

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In fact, the words election officials used to describe the 2020 race are “the safest in American history,” and judges across the country have dismissed nearly all of the dozens of fraud lawsuits filed by Trump allies.

Kushner’s reluctance to give as much away reflected the contortions he is now attempting as he tries to sell a book whose success depends on his close ties to Trump. At the same time, he seeks to distance himself from the lies and wrongdoing that paved the way for the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Hill.

Like the memoir itself, titled “Breaking History,” the project features a highly selective narrative that shows Kushner as a young star getting things done in the White House without getting his hands dirty.

“Before I took office,” the unelected Kushner said Tuesday, sitting on the couch of “Fox & Friends,” the “conventional thinking” was that there could never be peace between Israel and the Arab nations “until have peace with the Palestinians. .”

In that interview, Kushner, who was a senior adviser in the Trump White House, was credited with helping bring an “outsider’s perspective” to the world’s intractable problems.

In another interview, he noted that his father-in-law “had asked me to take responsibility for building the wall.”

During a virtual book event, Kushner even suggested he might be immortal, saying he had prioritized exercise since leaving the White House because his generation could be “the first generation to live for always”.

When it comes to Jan. 6 and the election lies that caused the uproar, Kushner is less sure. In the interview with Kelly, he tried to defend Trump’s feverish obsession with the 2020 election.

“What’s happened over the last year is there’s been a much-needed conversation in this country about election integrity,” he said.

After Trump left office, Kushner, a former Democrat, tried to restore his own image by telling people he wanted nothing to do with Trump’s lies about a stolen election. He writes in his book that he was eager to start a new chapter that looked to the future.

But in marketing the book, which is currently a bestseller on Amazon, he had to reckon with the darker elements of Trump’s presidency, including an attempt to overturn a Democratic election.

During Trump’s tenure, Kushner, a novice politician, appeared in the public eye when he wanted credit for an issue, such as criminal justice reform or the Abraham Accords. But he has retreated into the background and shirked responsibility when it suited him, such as when he left for the Middle East while his father-in-law refused to concede the 2020 election and tried to use the Justice Department to stay in power.

In taped testimony to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, Kushner made clear his disdain for some White House officials who tried to steer his father-in-law away from illegal attempts to overturn the results, saying he considered white threats House counsel Pat Cipollone to resign as a “whiner”.

With no clear audience for a book written by a former Democrat shunned by his former social circle and viewed with skepticism by Trump’s right-wing base, Kushner is relying on his father-in-law’s followers to buy what he’s selling — leading him to offers a series of tortured defenders of Trump’s more extreme behavior.

On Wednesday, when asked on Fox News whether Trump was wrong to take classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, after leaving office, Kushner tread carefully.

“President Trump, he has governed in a very strange way,” he said. “When he had his documents, I guess he did what he thought was appropriate.”

Kushner condemned the FBI’s investigation into Mar-a-Lago, saying Tuesday: “It just seems like what they’re continuing to do is break the rules in trying to get him.”

After leaving office, Trump was repeatedly asked by federal officials to return government material that did not belong to him. He was found to have hundreds of pages of classified documents — the kind of behavior Kushner eagerly encouraged his father-in-law to attack Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 election. Trump was subpoenaed by the Justice Department before the final search of his home in Florida for remaining sensitive materials.

As Kushner offers his sanitized version of the Trump presidency, his father-in-law’s political business has stepped up to help him write his book. Since mid-August, Trump’s political action committee Save America has sent more than a dozen emails pressuring supporters to make a donation in exchange for a copy of the book.

“I’m so proud,” Trump wrote to supporters, calling the book a “MUST READ.”

Most of the interviews Kushner granted were to personal friends of Trump, such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity, or to admirers of the former president, such as radio host Mark Levin.

Friendly quarters have mostly spared Kushner tough questions about Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack. His interviewers also avoided asking how Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, whom he defends in his book as a reformer on some issues.

Despite telling anyone who would listen for months that he would not be returning to Trump’s political circle, Kushner did not rule out a return to Washington if his father-in-law ran for president again and won.

“There would really have to be all the right conditions for us to be willing to do it again,” he told Kelly.

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