Jared Kushner Defends Steve Bannon in Interview, Calls Him an 'Incredible Zionist'

Kushner spoke to a Forbes reporter in a rare interview.

ByABC News
November 22, 2016, 12:01 PM

— -- President-elect Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner was viewed as one of the most influential voices during the campaign season and is widely expected to retain that influence in the incoming administration. But with the exception of a July op-ed he wrote in The New York Observer, a paper he owns, Kushner, the husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, has remained mostly out of the spotlight. He recently gave an interview to Forbes magazine, describing his role in the campaign and defending his father-in-law and members of the administration who have garnered controversy. Here are some things we learned about Kushner from the interview.

Defends Trump and Steve Bannon Against Allegations of Racism and Anti-Semitism

Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, has been the subject of fascination, particularly in the Jewish community, because his heritage appears to be directly at odds with core tenets of Donald Trump's campaign. As Kushner wrote in his op-ed this summer, he is the grandson of Holocaust survivors who subsequently came to the United States.

Trump has repeatedly advocated for halting refugees — who are arguably in similar positions to Kushner's grandparents 70 years ago — from entering the country. Also, he has made derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants. In the Forbes interview, however, Kushner insists his father-in-law will not stand for intolerance.

"I just know a lot of the things that people try to attack him with are just not true or overblown or exaggerations. I know his character. I know who he is, and I obviously would not have supported him if I thought otherwise. If the country gives him a chance, they'll find he won't tolerate hateful rhetoric or behavior," he said.

"You can't not be an anti-Semite for 69 years and all of a sudden become an anti-Semite because you're running," Kushner said, according to Forbes.

Forbes asked about how Trump's election appeared to embolden the KKK and the alt-right, both of which are notoriously anti-Semitic. Kushner responded that Trump has repeatedly denounced those groups. "I don't know if he could ever denounce them enough for some people," he said.

Part of the reason the alt-right feels energized is the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump's chief strategist. Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, which has been described as a prominent platform for the alt-right, left the site to join Trump's campaign. "All I know about Steve is my experience working with him. He's an incredible Zionist and loves Israel," Kushner told Forbes.

Future Role in the Trump Administration

It is presumed that Kushner will continue to be an influential adviser to Trump, whether or not he assumes an official role. As ABC News reported, if Kushner serves in the Trump administration, it could violate the nation's nepotism law, which states, "A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official."

Kushner did not divulge specifics about a role he would play but told the magazine, "There's a lot of people who have been asking me to get involved in a more official capacity. I just have to think about what that means for my family, for my business and make sure it'd be the right thing for a multitude of reasons."

Denies Any Involvement in Ousting Christie From Transition Team

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was removed as the chairman of the Trump transition team, there was speculation that Kushner was instrumental in the shakeup. When he was New Jersey's attorney general, Christie investigated campaign donations made by Kushner's father, Charles Kushner, who ultimately was sent to prison for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal donations.

In the Forbes interview, Jared Kushner denied any involvement with Christie's ouster and said he and Christie "worked very well together."

"The media has speculated on a lot of different things, and since I don't talk to the press, they go as they go, but I was not behind pushing out him or his people," he said.

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