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The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance into Harvard

ProPublica editor Daniel Golden wrote a book a decade ago about how the rich buy their children access to elite colleges. One student he covered is now poised to become one of the most powerful figures in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

by by Daniel Golden

This story was co-published with The Guardian.

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said in an email Thursday that “the allegation” that Charles Kushner’s gift to Harvard was related to Jared’s admission “is and always has been false.” His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, “are enormously generous and have donated over 100 million dollars to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes. Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honors.” (About 90 percent of Jared’s 2003 class at Harvard also graduated with honors.)

My Kushner discoveries were an offshoot of my research for a chapter on Harvard donors. Somebody had slipped me a document I had long coveted: the membership list of Harvard’s Committee on University Resources. The university wooed more than 400 of its biggest givers and most promising prospects by putting them on this committee and inviting them to campus periodically to be wined, dined, and subjected to lectures by eminent professors.

My idea was to figure out how many children of these corporate titans, oil barons, money managers, lawyers, high-tech consultants and old-money heirs had gone to Harvard. A disproportionate tally might suggest that the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers.

I began working through the list, poring over “Who’s Who in America” and Harvard class reunion reports for family information. Charles and Seryl Kushner were both on the committee. I had never heard of them, but their joint presence struck me as a sign that Harvard’s fundraising machine held the couple in especially fond regard.

The clips showed that Charles Kushner’s empire encompassed 25,000 New Jersey apartments, along with extensive office, industrial and retail space and undeveloped land. Unlike most of his fellow committee members, though, Kushner was not a Harvard man. He had graduated from New York University. This eliminated the sentimental tug of the alma mater as a reason for him to give to Harvard, leaving another likely explanation: his children.

Sure enough, his sons Jared and Joshua had both enrolled there.

Charles Kushner differed from his peers on the committee in another way; he had a criminal record. Five years after Jared entered Harvard, the elder Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax violations, illegal campaign donations, and retaliating against a witness. (As it happens, the prosecutor in the case was Chris Christie, recently oustedas the head of Trump’s transition team.) Charles Kushner had hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, who was cooperating with federal authorities. Kushner then had a videotape of the tryst sent to his sister. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

I completed my analysis, which justified my hunch. Of the 400-plus tycoons on Harvard’s list — which included people who were childless or too young to have college-age offspring — more than half had sent at least one child to the university.

I also decided that the Kushner-Harvard relationship deserved special attention. Although the university often heralded big gifts in press releases or a bulletin called — in a classic example of fundraising wit, “Re:sources” — a search of these outlets came up empty. Harvard didn’t seem eager to be publicly associated with Charles Kushner.

While looking into Kushner’s taxes, though, federal authorities had subpoenaed records of his charitable giving. I learned that in 1998, when Jared was attending The Frisch School and starting to look at colleges, his father had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard, to be paid in annual installments of $250,000. Charles Kushner also visited Neil Rudenstine, then Harvard president, and discussed funding a scholarship program for low- and middle-income students.

I phoned a Harvard official, with whom I was on friendly terms. First I asked whether the gift played any role in Jared’s admission. “You know we don’t comment on individual applicants,” he said. When I pressed further, he hung up. We haven’t spoken since.

At Harvard, Jared Kushner majored in government. Now the 35-year-old is poised to become the power behind the presidency. What he plans to do, and in what direction he and his father-in-law will lead the country, are far more important than his high school grades.

 

Trump son-in-law Kushner a focus in Russia probe: US media

By Agence France-Presse

The activities of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner have come under FBI scrutiny as part of the probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, US media reported Thursday.

Although it is unclear whether Kushner is a main focus of the probe, he is under investigation for the “extent and nature” of his interaction with Russian officials, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

NBC News, citing unnamed US officials, also reported that the FBI was looking at Kushner but emphasized that while investigators believe he has “significant information relevant to their inquiry,” it does not mean they suspect him of a crime.

Kushner held meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and a banker from Moscow in December, the Post said.

Kushner initially failed to declare the meetings on forms to obtain a security clearance to serve in the White House. His lawyer later said it was a mistake, telling the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he would amend the forms.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is the only current White House official known to be considered a key figure in the probe, which is targeting other members of Trump’s campaign team.

“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys, told the Post.

Investigators are looking into possible financial crimes in addition to possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials, the newspaper said.

The probe is headed by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel with broad powers to investigate Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign after the president sacked FBI director James Comey, who was heading the investigation, earlier this month.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, amid accusations from US intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a sweeping campaign to tilt the vote in the Republican’s favor.

Trump’s Budget Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts

By 

 

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC 

How Trump’s Budget Would Affect Every Part of Government 

Government spending would be cut substantially. See how every budget item would be changed. 

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Mr. Trump’s advisers portrayed the steep reductions as necessary to balance the nation’s budget while sparing taxpayers from shouldering the burden of programs that do not work well.

“This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” said Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director.

“We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help,” Mr. Mulvaney said as he outlined the proposal at the White House on Monday before its formal presentation on Tuesday to Congress.

Among its innovations: Mr. Trump proposes saving $40 billion over a decade by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the Child Tax Credit and adding additional measures to ensure they cannot collect the Earned Income Tax Credit. He has also requested $19 billion over 10 years for a new program, spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents. The budget also includes a broad prohibition against money for entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood, blocking them from receiving any federal health funding

The release of the document, an annual ritual in Washington that usually constitutes a marquee event for a new president working to promote his vision, unfolded under unusual circumstances. Mr. Trump is out of the country for his first foreign trip, and his administration is enduring a near-daily drumbeat of revelations about the investigation into his campaign’s possible links with Russia. 

The president’s absence, which his aides dismissed as a mere coincidence of the calendar, seemed to highlight the haphazard way in which his White House has approached its dealings with Congress. It is just as much a sign of Mr. Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for the policy detail and message discipline that is required to marshal support to enact politically challenging changes.

“If the president is distancing himself from the budget, why on earth would Republicans rally around tough choices that would have to be made?” said Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that promotes deficit reduction. “If you want to make the political case for the budget — and the budget is ultimately a political document — you really need the president to do it. So, it does seem bizarre that the president is out of the country.”

The president’s annual budget — more a message document than a practical set of marching orders even in the best of times — routinely faces challenges on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers jealously guard their prerogative to control federal spending and shape government programs. But Mr. Trump’s wish list, in particular, faces long odds, with Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans already showing themselves to be squeamish about some of the president’s plans.

“It probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

But in a signal that some proposed cuts to domestic programs are likely to face resistance even from conservatives, Mr. Meadows said he could not stomach the idea of doing away with food assistance for older Americans.

“Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far,” Mr. Meadows said.

Republicans balked at Mr. Trump’s demand for money for the border wall in negotiations over a spending package enacted last month. Many were deeply conflicted over voting for a health care overhaul measure that included the Medicaid cuts contained in the budget to be presented on Tuesday. Now the president is proposing still deeper reductions to the federal health program for the poor, as well as drastically scaling back a broad array of social safety net programs that are certain to be unpopular with lawmakers.

“The politics of this make no sense to me whatsoever, in the sense that the population that brought them to the dance are the populists out there in the Midwest and South who rely on these programs that he’s talking about reducing,” said G. William Hoagland, a former senior Republican congressional budget aide. Referring to Representative Paul D. Ryan, he said: “I don’t see how Speaker Ryan gets anywhere close to 218 votes in the House of Representatives if this is the model. It’s an exercise in futility.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Monday that the Medicaid cuts would “carry a staggering human cost” and violate Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to address the opioid epidemic.

“Based on what we know about this budget, the good news — the only good news — is that it was likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate, just as the last budget was,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The budget itself avoids some of the tough choices that would be required to enact Mr. Trump’s fiscal vision. The huge tax cut was presented but without any detail about its elements or cost. Mr. Mulvaney said the tax plan would not add to the deficit, implying that its cost would be made up with other changes, such as eliminating deductions.

To balance the budget, Mr. Trump’s budget relies on growth he argues will be generated from the as-yet-unformed tax cut.

The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, steps that Mr. Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who has backed entitlement cuts, said he had tried to persuade Mr. Trump to consider.

“He said, ‘I promised people on the campaign trail I would not touch their retirement and I would not touch Medicare,’ and we don’t do it,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I honestly was surprised that we could balance the budget without changing those programs, but we managed to do that.”

But budget experts argued that was little more than fiction, and the plan could never deliver the results it claims to.

“The central inconsistency is promoting a massive tax cut and spending increases in some areas and leaving the major entitlement programs alone,” Mr. Bixby said. “You don’t have to be an economist to know that that doesn’t add up, and that’s why there’s a great deal of concern about the negative fiscal impact that this budget will have.”

While past presidents have often launched a road show with stops around the country to promote the components of their inaugural budgets, Mr. Trump is spending the rest of the week overseas, leaving his staff to explain his plan while Republicans prepare their own response.

 

“This budget is dead before arrival, so he might as well be out of town,” said David A. Stockman, a former budget director under President Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Stockman said both political parties had grown comfortable with running large annual budget deficits. “There’s not a snowball’s chance that most of this deep deficit reduction will even be considered in a serious way.”

Correction: May 24, 2017 

An article on Tuesday about President Trump’s budget proposals, using information from Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, misstated a proposal to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving certain tax credits. A Social Security number is already required to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. The proposal would impose this requirement for the Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit is not affected. The article also referred incorrectly to one effect on Social Security. The budget proposes cutting Social Security disability benefits, not reducing retirement benefits.

 

 

 

Pope urges Trump to work for peace as smiles replace spats

Trump’s audience with the 80-year-old pontiff, a keenly-anticipated highlight of his first overseas tour, lasted just under half an hour and concluded with both men beaming, for the cameras at least.

“He is something,” the president later said of his host. “We had a fantastic meeting.”

The Vatican described the discussions as “cordial” and stressed the two men’s joint opposition to abortion and shared concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

There was no mention from either side of the two men’s profound differences on climate change, migration, the death penalty and other issues.

Trump told his host as he left: “Thank you. Thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

The pope had presented Trump with a medallion engraved with an olive tree, the international symbol of peace.

“I give it to you so you can be an instrument of peace,” he said in Spanish. “We can use peace,” Trump replied.

In a lighter moment, Francis referred to Trump’s imposing bulk by asking his wife Melania, “What do you feed him on? Potica?” – a reference to a calorie-laden cake from Slovenia, Melania’s country of birth.

Trump presented the pope with several gifts, including a collection of first editions by Martin Luther King and a bronze sculpture.

Francis gave Trump copies of the three major texts he has published as pope, including one on the environment which urges the industrialised world to curb carbon emissions or risk catastrophic consequences for the planet.

Trump, who has threatened to ignore the Paris accords on emissions and described global warming as a hoax, vowed to read them.

– History of spats –

In the last year, the two men have swapped jibes and debated on subjects ranging from migration to unbridled capitalism, as well as the environment.

A Vatican statement highlighted “the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”

Since his November election, Trump has pleased the Catholic hierarchy by axing rules protecting tax-funded financing of family planning clinics that offer abortions.

Melania, who is a Catholic, and daughter Ivanka were both dressed all in black with lace veils, in keeping with traditional protocol that is no longer obligatory for visiting female dignitaries.

The audience took place in the private library of the Apostolic Palace, the lavish papal residence that Francis does not use, having opted instead for modest lodgings in a guesthouse for visiting clerics.

Afterwards, the Trumps were given a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.

The president then called on Italy’s president and met briefly with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “We’re loving Italy very much,” Trump said at that stop. “It was an honour to meet the pope.”

Melania meanwhile visited a children’s hospital and Ivanka met women trafficked from Africa for the sex trade on a visit to the St Egidio religious community.

Team Trump was due in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon for meetings with EU and NATO officials before returning to Italy for the G7 summit in Sicily on Friday and Saturday.

– Jumbo-sized SUV –

Francis and Trump’s past spats include the pope describing plans for a border wall with Mexico as not Christian and Trump evoking a possible Islamist attack on the Vatican which would make the pontiff glad to have him as president.

But there have also been conciliatory moves. In 2013, Trump tweeted that “the new pope is a humble man, very much like me” while Francis had promised to judge the man not the image.

Wednesday’s meeting nevertheless provided a reminder of their differences in style, Trump arriving at the Vatican in a jumbo-sized SUV that couldn’t have been further removed from the modest Fiats and Fords Francis prefers.

Trump’s Vatican visit was the third leg of his overseas trip, after stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“No president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslims faiths all on one trip,” said US National Security Advisor HR McMaster. Trump was bringing “a message of tolerance and of hope to billions,” he said.

The high-profile trip has diverted attention from Trump’s domestic pressures over alleged campaign collusion with Russia.

With his poll numbers at a record low, he will be hoping for a boost after rubbing shoulders with the popular pope.

AFP

Staged sea-rescue to strengthen United States, New Zealand ties

The United States Coast Guard flew over Auckland for the first time in more than 20 years, in an open sea rescue in the Hauraki Gulf.

But no lives were at stake on Tuesday - the dramatic operation was just for show.

The demonstration was a showcase of search and rescue cooperation between New Zealand and the United States.

It's the first time a US Coastguard plane has visited New Zealand in a generation, and a lesson to all Pacific countries in how to save lives in the world's biggest ocean.

Rescue Coordination Centre's Mike Hill says it'll help understand more about their joint capabilities. 

"Particularly for Pacific countries that in the worst case are lost or missing or in distress, what they can do to make sure they are saved," he says.

Twenty six nations have come to Auckland for the Pacific Search and Rescue Conference. It's a chance to share knowledge, resources and skills which will be tested in trying conditions.

US coastguard Rich Roberts says it's about strengthening a bond.

"The quintessential element of what we're here to do is build those relationships in the South and Central Pacific."

Even in the calm of a big city harbour, it's an exercise in precision and planning. But in the rough waters of the Pacific Ocean real-life rescues are more difficult still.

"The winds, the environmental conditions create much more challenge for the air crews to put an accurate drop," Mr Roberts says.

New Zealand's Search and Rescue Region is a massive 30 million square kilometres of ocean from Antarctica to the Pacific Islands - that's three times the size of Europe.

Calls for help come every three or four days, and most at sea are completely unprepared.

Mr Hill says he'd like to see people carry forms of communication.

"The Royal NZ Air Force, 80 percent of the jobs they do, people don't have a beacon. That's why it takes an international effort - sometimes just finding those in need of rescue can be like looking for a drop in the ocean."

Newshub.

Manchester attack: Home Secretary Amber Rudd criticises United States over leaking of British intelligence

 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has warned the United States over leaking after details of the Manchester attack appeared to come from American sources.

Ms Rudd said the leaking of information had been “irritating” after a number of details appeared in the US media, including NBC and CBS, before the police had released information.

The death toll, the attack being an apparent suicide bombing, and the name of the attacker were all released from American news outlets.

Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that US leaks may be working against the police.

She said: “British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise.

“So it is irritating if it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again."

Asked if the Americans had compromised the investigation, she added: "I wouldn't go that far but I can say that they are perfectly clear about the situation and that it shouldn't happen again."

The Home Secretary has also confirmed that Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known to the intelligence services "up to a point".

 

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