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Breaking History review: Jared Kushner’s dispiriting Trump book

The Guardian logo The Guardian 14/08/2022 Lloyd Green
Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The House January 6 committee hearings depict Donald Trump as eager to storm the Capitol. He knew the rally held in his name included armed individuals. When rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence”, Jared Kushner’s father-in-law remarked: “He deserves it.”

Related: The Big Lie review: Jonathan Lemire laments what Trump hath wrought

In response to a plea from Kevin McCarthy, the 45th president questioned the House Republican leader’s devotion. The mob invaded Congress. Trump sat back and watched.

Kushner has not fared well either. In testimony to the panel, he has derided Pat Cipollone as a “whiner” and described deigning to exit the shower to take a call from a panicked McCarthy. On the screen, Kushner drips hauteur, empathy nonexistent. It’s not a good look.

Then comes Breaking History, Kushner’s White House memoir. Its sits at the intersection of spin, absolution and self-aggrandizement.

“What is clear to me is that no one at the White House expected violence that day,” Kushner writes of January 6. Cassidy Hutchinson says otherwise.

Kushner adds: “I’m confident that if my colleagues or the president had anticipated violence, they would have prevented it from happening.” DC police tell a different story.

Kushner rebuffed early entreaties from Marc Short, the vice-president’s chief of staff, to end Trump’s attempt to stop certification of Joe Biden’s win.

“You know, I’m really focused on the Middle East right now,” Kushner replied. “I haven’t really been involved in the election stuff since Rudy Giuliani came in.”

In the aftermath of January 6, White House morale was at a nadir, according to Kushner. A second impeachment loomed. Kushner told staff to stay the course.

“You took an oath to the country,” he recalls. “This is a moment when we have to do what’s right, not what’s popular. If the country is better off with you here, then stay. If it doesn’t matter, then do what you want.”

That sales pitch sounds canned. Those who had served in the military found the spiel stale and grating.

In Kushner, Inc, the author Vicky Ward described Kushner’s earlier efforts to persuade Mark Corallo to join the White House staff. Corallo was once in the army and did a stint at the Department of Justice too.


Video: Explaining the FBI raid on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago (Indy 100)

After he said no, Kushner asked: “Don’t you want to serve your country?”

Corallo replied: “Young man, my three years at the butt end of an M-16 checked that box.”

Trump dodged the draft for Vietnam. When his brother, Fred Jr, accepted a commission in the air national guard, he met with his family’s scorn. In contrast, Mike Pence’s son, the Biden boys, Steve Bannon: all wore a uniform.

In Breaking History, Kushner selectively parcels out dirt. He seeks to absolve his father for recruiting a sex worker to film her tryst with William Schulder, Charlie Kushner’s brother-in-law. At the time, Schulder, his wife, Esther, (Charlie’s sister), and Charlie were locked in battle over control of the family real estate business.

Kushner explains: “Billy’s infidelity was an open secret around the office, and to show his sister Esther what kind of man she had married, my father hired a prostitute who seduced Billy.”

Schulder and Esther were also talking to the feds.

The names of two Trump paramours, Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, and Karen McDougal, the Playboy model, do not appear in Kushner’s book. Then again, as Trump once said, “When you’re a star … you can do anything.” For Trump and Kushner, rules are meant for others.

Breaking History comes with conflicting creation stories. In June, the New York Times reported that Kushner took an online MasterClass from the thriller writer James Patterson, then “batted out” 40,000 words of his own.

The Guardian reported that Kushner received assistance from Ken Kurson, a former editor of the New York Observer who was pardoned by Trump on cyberstalking charges but then pleaded guilty after being charged with spying on his wife. Avi Berkowitz, a Kushner deputy who worked on the Abraham Accords, and Cassidy Luna, an aide married to Nick Luna, Trump’s White House “body man”, were also on board.

Breaking History says nothing about Patterson but gives shout-outs to Kurson, Luna and Berkowitz: “From the inception of this endeavor, Ken’s brutally honest feedback and inventive suggestions have made this a better book.”

Kushner rightly takes pride in the Abraham Accords, normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. In the process, he provides backstory for Trump’s frustration with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ken Kurson, right, and Jared Kushner attend the New York Observer's 25th anniversary party, in New York in 2013. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP © Provided by The Guardian Ken Kurson, right, and Jared Kushner attend the New York Observer's 25th anniversary party, in New York in 2013. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Israel’s then-prime minister’s earned a “fuck him” after he hesitatingly embraced Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, seeking to extract maximum concession without grace or reciprocity. What Netanyahu craved but never received was American approval of Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Here, Breaking History adds color to Trump’s Peace by Barak Ravid.

According to Ravid, David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, was close to Netanyahu. He sat in on Israeli government meetings until he was tossed out by cabinet members. Ravid also calls Friedman “flesh of the settlers’ flesh”.

Related: Trump’s Peace review: dysfunction and accord in US Israel policy

Enter Kushner. “Friedman had assured Bibi that he would get the White House to support annexation more immediately,” he says. “He had not conveyed this to me or anyone on my team.”

Things grew heated. “You haven’t spoken to a single person from a country outside of Israel,” Kushner said. “You don’t have to deal with the Brits, you don’t have to deal with the Moroccans, and you don’t have to deal with the Saudis or the Emiratis, who are all trusting my word and putting out statements. I have to deal with the fallout of this. You don’t.”

One Trump veteran described Breaking History to the Guardian as “just 493 pages of pure boredom”. Not exactly. Kushner delivers a mixture of news and cringe. He does not extract Trump from his present morass. On Wednesday, Kushner’s father-in-law invoked the fifth amendment. Only Charlie Kushner got the pardon. A devoted child takes care of dad.

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