President Donald Trump has pardoned Charles Kushner, his son-in-law’s father, as part of a spree of pardons — mostly to personal associates — in the final weeks of his presidency.
Charles Kushner, who grew up in Elizabeth and brought up his family in Livingston, and whose son Jared is married to Ivanka Trump, went to jail in 2005 for fraud, tax evasion, and witness tampering. His crimes generated national headlines long before his Trump connection because it included paying a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law.
Charles Kushner served 14 months at a minimum-security prison camp in Alabama and 10 months at a halfway house in New Jersey. Jared Kushner, his father-in-law’s closest adviser, never forgave the prosecutor in the case, Chris Christie, the Republican who would go on to become New Jersey governor and one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal campaigners in 2016. Jared Kushner nixed any role for Mr. Christie in the Trump administration.
Now, Mr. Trump has pardoned Charles Kushner for the crimes, citing his record of giving since his release from prison.
“Since completing his sentence in 2006, Mr. Kushner has been devoted to important philanthropic organizations and causes, such as Saint Barnabas Medical Center and United Cerebral Palsy,” the statement the White House released last week read. “This record of reform and charity overshadows Mr. Kushner’s conviction and 2-year sentence for preparing false tax returns, witness retaliation, and making false statements to the” Federal Election Commission.
The flood of pardons, issued over two days last week, is packed with figures who are close to the president, including several who were convicted of crimes related to the federal probe into Russian interference on Mr. Trump’s behalf in the 2016 election. Historians say no president has pardoned more associates than Trump has.
The details of Charles Kushner’s crimes are memorable. A one-time major Democratic donor and macher in Orthodox Jewish and federation fundraising circles, Mr. Kushner was incensed by his brother-in-law, his sister Esther’s husband, Bill Schulder, who was testifying against him in a tax-evasion case. So he set Mr. Schulder up with a woman who seduced him at his favorite diner, Time to Eat in Bridgewater.
The woman lured Mr. Schulder to her hotel room and secretly filmed the encounter. Mr. Kushner mailed the videotape anonymously, and his sister immediately understood it as a warning not to testify. The Schulders received the tape as they were getting ready for their son’s engagement party.
Mr. Christie, who worked closely with Mr. Trump as recently as October, when he helped the outgoing president prepare for his debate with President-elect Joe Biden, and then came down with covid at the White House open-air, closely packed, largely maskless event where Mr. Trump introduced the nation to his last Supreme Court pick, now Justice Amy Coney Barrett, wrote about the incident in his 2019 book, “Let Me Finish.” As reported in the Washington Post, Mr. Christie wrote: “Mr. Kushner pled guilty, he admitted the crimes. So what am I supposed to do as a prosecutor? If a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, and videotapes it, and then sends the videotape to his sister in an attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury, do I really need any more justification than that?”
Later, he said, on a PBS news show, “It’s one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. attorney.”
One odd twist to the Kushner pardon is whom Mr. Trump cites as recommending it. Such citations often include prosecutors or judges involved in the trial or victims of the crime who say the miscreant has redeemed himself, or figures with expertise in the area.
But in Mr. Kushner’s case, Matt Schlapp, one of Mr. Trump’s most fervent defenders and the chairman of the American Conservative Union; David Safavian, a deputy director for the American Conservative Union whom Trump pardoned for perjury in February; and Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor in Utah, have recommended the pardon.
The Kushner pardon came in a batch that also include Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, Trump associates who declined to participate in federal inquiries into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russian officials.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Joanne Palmer contributed to this report.