Christie has short (and calm) response to Trump pardon of Jared Kushner’s father — the man he sent to jail

Posted Dec 27, 2020

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s known for his brash persona, had a relatively measured reaction Sunday about President Donald Trump recently giving a full pardon to a man Christie prosecuted when he was U.S. attorney.

Trump, a Christie friend and ally, announced Thursday he pardoned Charles Kushner, the wealthy New Jersey real estate developer who went to jail for tax fraud more than a decade ago in a famous case that Christie oversaw as New Jersey’s federal prosecutor. Kushner is the father of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser to the president.

The bizarre case — which included sex tapes and a prostitute — helped raise Christie’s profile in the early 2000s. He later called it ”one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted” in the Garden State.

Trump, on the other hand, said Kushner has shown a “record of reform and charity” since serving his time that ”overshadows” his conviction.

Asked about the parson during an appearance Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week,” Christie didn’t criticize Trump directly but said Kushner’s post-prison record “doesn’t overshadow ... the extraordinary work that my office did 16 years go.”

”Let’s remember that the case was not tried,” Christie said. “Mr. Kushner pled guilty. We’ll stand on the record of our prosecution at that time. That’s the only thing that really matters to me.”

“The responsibility I had at the time was to prosecute federal crimes that occurred in New Jersey without fear or favor,” he added. “And I think everybody after watching he events of the last 16 years, right up through the pardon, can say that I prosecuted without fear or favor.”

Meanwhile, former Gov. Jim McGreevey — for whom Kushner raised significant campaign money — told NJ Advance Media that “Charlie has and will always be a dear friend.” And he noted that Kushner has helped the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, a nonprofit McGreevey runs that helps former prisoners re-enter society.

“He has consistently been quietly financially supportive of NJRC clients, while linking persons to needed job opportunities,” McGreevey said. “I am most grateful for his compassionate concern.”

Charles Kushner, a 66-year-old Elizabeth native, received one of 49 pardons Trump issued last week, many of which sparked outrage. The president also pardoned his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and granted a full and unconditional pardon to Roger Stone Jr.

“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,” Trump said in a statement. “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.”

Kushner was once a major Democratic political fundraiser and philanthropist who built a massive real estate empire in New Jersey and beyond. He was the single largest campaign contributor to McGreevey’s successful run for governor in 2001, and McGreevey later named him the powerful chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

But Kushner came under federal investigation in the wake of a bitter family dispute with his former partner and brother, Murray Kushner, over campaign contributions being made through Kushner’s many real estate partnerships.

Kushner later admitted to defrauding the IRS of between $200,000 and $325,000 by filing 16 tax returns that claimed those political contributions as “office expenses.” He also acknowledged that he lied to the Federal Election Commission when he reported $385,000 in political contributions from his business partners. The partners claimed they were unaware of the donations.

But it didn’t end there. Authorities said Kushner paid $25,000 to arrange for a prostitute to seduce a brother-in-law, and then had the videotape of the motel tryst sent to his sister. Christie’s office accused Kushner of trying to intimidate his sister after she took Murray’s side in the tax case, and had became a witness in the federal investigation. Kushner acknowledged orchestrating the plot and pleaded guilty to violating tax and campaign laws, as well as obstruction of justice.

“No matter how rich and powerful you are or poor and unpowerful, if you have violated the federal law in the district of New Jersey or if you are corrupting our political system, this office will bring you to justice. Today, Charles Kushner was brought to justice,” Christie said at the time.

Kushner served 14 months of a two-year sentence in federal prison, the maximum sentence allowed under a plea agreement he had reached with Christie.

Kushner’s son, Jared Kushner, later helped Trump win the presidency in 2016 and reportedly helped push Christie out as the head of Trump’s transition after the election.

Christie continued to be an adviser to Trump, a longtime friend, and repeatedly denied having a tense relationship with Jared Kushner.

But in his recent memoir, Christie said Kushner removed him as an act of revenge for his father’s prosecution.

“Mr. Kushner pled guilty, he admitted the crimes,” Christie told PBS last year. “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?”

Christie has notably broken with Trump in recent months.

After spending a week in intensive care at Morristown Medical Center with the coronavirus, Christie said he was “wrong” to not wear a mask during White House events in the days leading up to his hospital stay. And last week, Christie released a national TV ad calling on all Americans to wear masks to fight COVID-19 — a message Trump has not given himself.

Plus, Christie has publicly chastised Trump for refusing to accept his loss to Biden and challenge the election results in court.

And on Monday, Christie said during a radio interview he would not rule out running for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, even if Trump runs again.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-28 04:13:39 -0800