Son-in-law Kushner poised to wield clout in Trump presidency

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After winning a primary election that effectively clinched the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump paused to laud a boyish-looking 35-year-old who ultimately proved to be an indispensable figure on the path to the White House.

"Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person. But I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate," Trump said of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, standing to his right during a victory speech after the Indiana party primary election in May. "But he's very good at politics."

Kushner, the slender, clean-cut New Jersey real estate scion who married Trump's daughter Ivanka in 2009, helped guide the Republican Trump to victory last week over Democrat Hillary Clinton and is poised to remain an influential adviser during his presidency.

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NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are seen on March 26, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Tal Rubin/GC Images)
BRIARCLIFF MANOR, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attends the 9th Annual Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational at Trump National Golf Club Westchester on September 21, 2015 in Briarcliff Manor City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)
BRIARCLIFF MANOR, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: (L-R) Vanessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivana Trump, Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attend the 9th Annual Eric Trump Foundation Golf Invitational Auction & Dinner at Trump National Golf Club Westchester on September 21, 2015 in Briarcliff Manor, New York. (Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend the 'China: Through The Looking Glass' Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: (L-R) Eric Trump, Lara Yunaska Trump, Donald Trump, Barron Trump, Melania Trump, Vanessa Haydon Trump, Kai Madison Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Donald John Trump III, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Tiffany Trump pose for photos on stage after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07: Jared Kushner (L) and Ivanka Trump attend the American Theatre Wing's 69th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
BEDMINSTER, NJ - OCTOBER, 25: In this handout image provided by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump (R) and Jared Kushner (L) attend their wedding at Trump National Golf Club on October 25, 2009 in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Photo Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Photography via Getty Images)
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, center, speaks as his sons Donald Trump Jr., left, and Eric Trump, right, listen during a caucus night rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Trump's dominating victory in the Nevada caucuses pushes him further out ahead of his nearest competitors for the Republican presidential nomination, giving his unorthodox candidacy a major boost heading into Super Tuesday contests next week. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
20/20 - Donald Trump and his family - including wife Melania Trump and his children - sit down for an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters in a special edition of 20/20 airing Friday, Nov. 20 (10-11pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images) DONALD TRUMP, JR., IVANKA TRUMP, ERIC TRUMP, TIFFANY TRUMP, BARBARA WALTERS
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Marla Maples (L) and Tiffany Trump have dinner at Sumosan on July 28, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)
BRIARCLIFF MANOR, NY - SEPTEMBER 15: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission of #455504994 with alternate crop.) (L-R) Donald Trump, Ivana Trump, Eric Trump and Lara Yunaska attend The Eric Trump 8th Annual Golf Tournament at Trump National Golf Club Westchester on September 15, 2014 in Briarcliff Manor, New York. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Donald Trump, Eric Trump and Lara Yunaska attend the New York Observer's 2013 Young Philanthropy event at PH-D Rooftop Lounge at Dream Downtown on April 18, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
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Kushner emerged as an important voice early in Trump's campaign, launched in June 2015. He was involved in almost every aspect of Trump's campaign, offering advice on key personnel decisions, strategy, speeches, fundraising and other areas.

Late in the campaign, he began laying the groundwork for a possible Trump-run television network, in the event his father-in-law lost, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Kushner spearheads his family's real estate development company, Kushner Companies, and is the publisher of the New York Observer weekly newspaper, which he acquired at age 25.

While a federal anti-nepotism law prohibits a president from hiring family members to serve in his administration, Kushner is set to remain a key insider and trusted confidant.

Reince Priebus, appointed Trump's White House chief of staff on Sunday, told NBC's "Today" show on Monday that Kushner "obviously" will be very involved in decision-making. Kushner serves on Trump's transition executive committee.

FOLLOWING FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS

Kushner is a Harvard graduate with a New York University law degree and a master's in business administration. Like Trump, Kushner followed in the footsteps of a real estate powerhouse father.

His father, Charles Kushner, is a real estate developer, philanthropist and major Democratic donor whose reputation was left in tatters after a lurid criminal case. He was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making unlawful campaign donations.

During the case, he admitted to smearing his brother-in-law, who had cooperated with prosecutors, by hiring a prostitute to have sex with him in a motel room, then sending a secretly recorded video of the encounter to the man's wife, Charles Kushner's own sister.

In an unusual twist, the man who prosecuted Charles Kushner was Chris Christie, now the governor of New Jersey, who also has served as an adviser to Trump.

Kushner is an Orthodox Jew whose wife, Ivanka, converted to Judaism before they married. The family keeps kosher, observes the Sabbath and attends an upscale synagogue on New York's Upper East Side.

ANTI-SEMITISM CONTROVERSY

Steve Bannon, former head of the right-wing Breitbart News website, took a leadership post in the campaign in August after it became clear that Trump, his children and Kushner trusted his advice and analysis, a source said at the time.

Breitbart News is closely associated with the "alt-right" movement, a loose online group of white supremacists, anti-Semites and others opposed to multiculturalism.

Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, named Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor on Sunday.

Dana Schwartz, a Jewish reporter for Kushner's newspaper, in July criticized Trump for his Twitter post accusing Clinton of corruption using a Star of David image and a background of $100 bills. Schwartz then wrote an open letter to Kushner after being deluged with anti-Semitic tweets.

Schwartz asked Kushner, "how do you allow this? Because, Mr. Kushner, you are allowing this. ... When you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law, you're giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval."

Kushner responded by writing in the Observer, "In my opinion, accusations like 'racist' and 'anti-Semite' are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering these words meaningless."

He went on to write that his grandmother and grandfather survived the Nazi Holocaust while other relatives did not.

"I know the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points," Kushner wrote.

Kushner became a major player in real estate in his mid-20s, after his father's conviction. At 26, he orchestrated what was the most-expensive single-building purchase in U.S. history in 2006 with the $1.8 billion acquisition of a 41-story skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Kushner told The Real Deal trade magazine afterward, "In New York, you have to act quickly, or else you get left in the dust."

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Additional reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Howard Goller)

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