|STEPHEN CROWLEY / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
There was a time in Jared Kushner's life when he could have turned away from the Dark Side.
That time might have been in 2005 when following an investigation by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, Kushner's billionaire father Charles pleaded guilty to 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering, a charge arising from his retaliation against his sister's husband, who was cooperating with Christie, by hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, arranging to videotape their encounter and sending the tape to his sister.
That time might have been in 2006 when Kushner, who had flown to Alabama on many weekends for over a year to visit his father in a federal penitentiary, looked in the mirror at his tousle-haired self and realized he needed find a better way forward, perhaps summoning the lessons he was taught at the Orthodox yeshiva he had attended in North Jersey.
That time might have been in 2007 when Kushner met and fell in love with an attractive young woman of means who shared his interest in real estate, later describing their first date as "the best deal we ever made!"
But Kushner not only did not turn away from the Dark Side, he embraced it with a renewed vengeance as he became his father's biggest defender in loudly proclaiming that Christie had unfairly prosecuted him despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Ten years on, Kushner has parlayed his now well-honed skills as a manipulator, blame shifter and liar for whom everything is about money, as well as marriage to that attractive young woman of means, into the ultimate deal -- an intimate working relationship with Donald Trump.
Kushner, in his position as head of the digital team of his father in-law's presidential campaign, in all likelihood was responsible for making sure that Russian hackers knew which voters to target with a sophisticated cyber onslaught of fake news in the Kremlin's successful effort to sabotage Hillary Clinton and hand the election to Trump. He also popped up with an uncanny regularity at many of the meetings with the very Russians being investigated by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, including one where he proposed that a secret back channel be established for the then president-elect to communicate privately with the Kremlin.
Kushner, in his position as a White House senior advisor with a mandate to make China and Mideast policy despite his utter lack of experience, has joined the emoluments gravy train in enhancing his personal wealth even as the family real estate business teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. He has advised his father-in-law on a range of important decisions, including appointing Michael Flynn despite his treasonous conduct and firing James Comey on specious grounds, as well as supporting an Arab boycott of Qatar, which had turned down he and his father for a half-billion dollar bailout.
Kushner's many skills notwithstanding, there is some question about his memory.
He failed to list a single meeting with a foreign government official during the campaign (there were over 100) or certain financial holdings (numbering in the dozens) when he filled out his security clearance application, nor did he disclose to investigators his and wife Ivanka's private email accounts, which they reportedly moved to a Trump Organization server although they were using the accounts to conduct White House business. (It was different when Hillary did it, doncha know?)
Kushner is on such shaky ground and such a liability in a West Wing full of cowboys that some of Trump's lawyers urged that he should be eased out, a recommendation the president rejected even though the frequency with which Trump and Kushner have met privately as Mueller ramped up his investigation could be seen as an attempt to coordinate their stories.
Kushner did finally get his revenge on Christie, whom he blackballed when Trump considered him first as a running mate and later for a Cabinet position.
There are many explanations as to why Kushner skipped the navel gazing and forgot what he learned in yeshiva. But they all come down to one thing. Like father-in-law like son, he doesn't believe the rules apply to him.
That noted, Kushner is on something of a collision course with the rules. It seems likely that he will join Flynn and Paul Manafort, among others, as Mueller's prime perps when the time arrives to stop investigating and start indicting. Faced with the possibility of becoming the second Kushner to see the inside of a prison wall in as many generations, will he put his own ass over the loyalty Trump has shown him?
In a New York minute.