Before introducing Donald Trump to roughly a dozen Republican lawmakers at the Washington law offices of Jones Day, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions paused to acknowledge the man he said had facilitated the closed-door talks.
He said it was Jared Kushner, a 35-year-old real estate investor and newspaper owner, who had suggested the get-together last month, arguing that it would enable Trump to win more allies on Capitol Hill, according to a person in the room.
Kushner is also Trump's son-in-law, having married the Republican presidential front-runner's daughter Ivanka in 2009.
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Behind Donald Trump, a son-in-law who is also an adviser
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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A real-estate tycoon like his father-in-law, Kushner has emerged as one of a very few advisers as Trump seeks the Republican nomination to the Nov. 8 election, according to five people close to Trump.
It is especially rare given that Trump styles himself as his own best adviser and has said he consults only a few people despite a promise to hire the country's top minds once he becomes president.
While "well respected," Kushner has no official campaign role, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. She confirmed however that Kushner had helped with the Sessions meeting and had informally advised the candidate on Israel and in other areas.
In an interview Kushner's friend David Schulhof, founder of a music publishing company, cited a level-headedness and listening skill that would make Kushner a calming influence.
This could be helpful to Trump, 69, who entered the race 10 months ago hailing his having never held public office as an asset, but whose campaign has been rocked by turbulence over remarks offensive to women, Muslims, immigrants, party loyalists and others.
At times Kushner has urged Trump to behave like a more traditional candidate, stressing the importance of building relationships with politicians and traditionally active donors, say the sources close to Trump, speaking on condition of anonymity.
They also say Kushner can use friendships like the ones he has with media mogul Rupert Murdoch and real estate billionaire Ronald Perelman as a bridge to influential people with whom his father-in-law is not close. Neither Murdoch nor Perelman would comment for this story.
An Orthodox Jew, whose wife Ivanka converted to Judaism before they married, Kushner and his family have connections to Israel. Along with his father, also a prominent real-estate developer, Kushner was listed in a 2015 report by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as a benefactor for its real estate committee, which required a donation of at least $36,000 to the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.
Kushner's parents donated $20 million two years ago to a medical school campus in Jerusalem now named after them.
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Donald Trump, Robert Trump, and Ivanka Trump during Donald Trump 50th Birthday Party at Trump Tower in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Low-angle portrait of American businessman Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, as they pose together under a tent at the Mercedes Benz Polo Match, Bridgehampton, New York, 1997. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 05: Ivanka Trump backstage on cell phone at the Jill Stuart Fashion Show at Chelsea Piers. (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
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Ivana Trump and Ivanka Trump (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
ASCOT, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21: Ivana And Ivanka Trump At Ascot Races In Berkshire (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
395848 01: *** EXCLUSIVE *** (ITALY OUT) Super model Ivanka Trump walking her dog Tyler on Madison Avenue October 14, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 08: Ivanka Trump at the World Premiere of 'The Sweetest Thing' starring Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jason Bateman and Parker Posey in New York, United States on April 08, 2002. (Photo by David LEFRANC/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 23: Ivanka Trump, wearing a Douglas Hannant gown, poses for a portrait June 23, 2002 in New York City. (Photo by Richard Greene/Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump and Ivana Trump (Photo by Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage)
Director/producer Jamie Johnson and Ivanka Trump during 2003 Sundance Film Festival - 'Born Rich' Outdoor Portraits at Main Street Park City in Park City, Utah, United States. (Photo by Randall Michelson/WireImage)
Ivanka Trump during 2003 Park City - The Village at The Lift at The Village at The Lift in Park City, Utah, United States. (Photo by L. Busacca/WireImage)
Ivanka Trump during Born Rich - New York Premiere at The Screening Room in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK - APRIL 26: (U.S. TABLOIDS AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT) Ivanka Trump attends the 'Dangerous Liasons: The Art of Seduction' The Metropolitan Museums Costume Institute Benefit Gala April 26, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 10: Socialite Ivanka Trump and guest attend The Paris Review Foundation Presents Fall Revel Honoring William Styron at Cipriani November 10, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump during American Museum of Natural History Annual Winter Dance at American Museum of Natural History in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/FilmMagic)
Vanessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump (Photo by Mychal Watts/WireImage)
Ivanka Trump during Olympus Fashion Week Fall 2006 - Carolina Herrera - Front Row and Backstage at Bryant Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Ivanka Trump during The Cinema Society and The Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition Host a Screening of 'Babel' at Tribeca Grand Screening Room in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jason Kempin/FilmMagic)
Ivanka Trump (Photo by John Sciulli/WireImage)
PALM BEACH, FL - JANUARY 27: Junior Chairwoman, Ivanka Trump attends the 50th Annual International Red Cross Ball at Mar A Lago on January 27, 2007 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Ivanka Trump attends The American Museum of Natural History's Annual Winter Dance on February 13, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 07: Ivanka Trump attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala 'Poiret: King Of Fashion' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - MARCH 4: Real Estate developer Ivanka Trump walks in stunning style to the Regis and Kelly Show at ABC Studios on the Upper West Side on March 4, 2008 in New York City, New York. The daughter of billionaire Donald Trump and Ivana Trump looked very chic as she walked through New York City. (Photos by Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto.com) ***FEE MUST BE AGREED PRIOR TO USAGE *** Buzz Foto LLC http://www.buzzfoto.com/ 1112 Montana Ave suite 80 Santa Monica CA 90403 1 310 441 4464 1 310 980 8822
NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Ivanka Trump attends Town & Country celebration for the July 2008 Cover with Ivanka Trump at Hearst Tower on June 26, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 19: Ivanka Trump attends the Brian Reyes Fall 2009 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in the Promenade at Bryant Park on February 19, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for IMG)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Ivanka Trump promotes 'The Trump Card: Playing To Win In Work And Life' at Barnes & Noble 5th Avenue on October 14, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 133 -- Airdate 10/15/2009 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jimmy Fallon plays beer pong with Ivanka Trump on October 15, 2009 (Photo by Tracy Leeds/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Ivanka Trump appears on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend the Costume Institute Gala Benefit to celebrate the opening of the 'American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity' exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 3, 2010 in New York City.
Kai Madison Trump,Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. attend the 4th annual Eric Trump Foundation Golf Invitational at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester on September 14, 2010 in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 23: Ivanka Trump sighting on June 23, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: TV personality Ivanka Trump films an interview at the 'Celebrity Apprentice' set in Madison Square Park on October 31, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Ivanka Trump and Kristin Cavallari attend the Dennis Basso Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the The Stage at Lincoln Center on February 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/WireImage)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 08: Ivanka Trump looks on after the announcement of the purchase by the Trump Organization of the Doral Hotel & Country Club prior to the start of the first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral Golf Resort and Spa on March 8, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend the Vanity Fair Party during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the State Supreme Courthouse on April 17, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
ALL-STAR CELEBRITY APPRENTICE -- Episode 1301 -- Pictured: (l-r) Piers Morgan, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC)
Ivanka Trump, daughter of billionaire real estate developer Donald J. Trump and executive vice president of development and acquisitions for Trump Organization LLC, center, attends the annual benefit of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy at Gracie Mansion in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Gracie Mansion Conservancy raises funds privately to support the upkeep of the house. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PALM BEACH, FL - JANUARY 05: Ivanka Trump, Arabella Rose Kushner, and Jared Kushner attend the 2014 Trump Invitational Grand Prix at The Mar-a-Lago Club on January 5, 2014 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images for 2014 Trump Invitational Grand Prix)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Pregnant Ivanka Trump sighting on August 21, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Ivanka Trump attends the 2015 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Anna Wintour, Anthony Weiner and Ivanka Trump attend the 2015 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Tachman/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 Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Ivanka Trump speaks during the Donald Trump presidential announcement at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/Getty Images)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trumps wife Melania Trump (R) and daughter Ivanka look at a smart phone after the Republican Presidential debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Republican National Committee at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in Charleston, South Carolina on January 14, 2016. AFP PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pats his expecting daughter Ivanka Trump while celebrating victory in the South Carolina primary in Spartanburg, South Carolina, February 20, 2016. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump grabbed a big win in the South Carolina primary, capturing about a third of the votes, according to early counts, but all major networks projected Trrump the winner. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Using his family and business ties, Kushner arranged a series of meetings for Trump during a trip the candidate planned to make to Israel last year, the sources say.
The trip never happened. Trump scrapped it after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Trump later suggested that if elected he would not take sides in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, a stance he said would help him negotiate a peace deal but which was unusually neutral for an American politician looking to court voters on Israel.
Ahead of AIPAC's annual conference last month in Washington, Kushner advised his father-in-law to lay out concrete policies that would help smooth over relations with the Jewish community, according to two sources. He further advised him to use a teleprompter for the speech, ditching his usual conversational style, the people close to Trump said.
It was also Kushner who fielded a call from Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who wanted to offer Trump the Israeli government's perspective ahead of the AIPAC speech, according to the sources.
Dermer's office declined to comment.
In the end, Trump delivered an uncharacteristically detailed speech to the 18,000 people who attended the conference, outlining a series of policy positions broadly aligned with AIPAC's. An AIPAC spokesman declined to comment.
Trump told attendees that Palestinians must scrub hatred of Israel from their educational system and stop naming public places after people who attacked Israel. He said the United States must stand with Israel in rejecting attempts by the United Nations to impose restrictions on Israel or parameters for a peace deal. He criticized the U.S. deal with Iran as bad for Israel.
While helping Trump craft the speech, Kushner sought advice from the politically connected editor of his newspaper, the New York Observer. The editor, Ken Kurson, a former speech writer for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, wrote in an email to Reuters that he reviewed the speech before Trump delivered it.
Trump has loomed large in Kushner's life since day one of his marriage. The New York Post reported that invitations to Kushner's wedding, held at a Trump golf club in New Jersey, included a flier advertising Trump's other golf properties.
Kushner, who with his wife has taken family vacations with News Corp owner Murdoch and his ex-wife Wendi Deng, has worked to calm Murdoch's ire with Trump over the candidate's criticism of the company's Fox News Channel and star anchor Megyn Kelly, two people familiar with his activities say.
During regular phone calls and lunches Kushner tries both to soothe Murdoch and stump for his father-in-law, these people said.
Despite his influence behind the scenes, Kushner keeps a largely low profile on the campaign trail. During a Trump rally in South Carolina last November, he hung back while other family members took the stage until his father-in-law called him out.
"Where's Jared? Jared get up here," Trump shouted. Kushner, clad in charcoal-colored pants and a black quilted down vest, shuffled up, hands jammed in his pockets.
"Jared's a very successful developer and he just loves politics now," Trump said, adding with a bit of gleeful teasing: "Look at him. See the way he dresses?"
(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Additional reporting by Olivia Oran in New York and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Howard Goller)