Money & Power

Can Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Come Back to New York City?

Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in his home city. If his daughter and son-in-law tire of Washington, could they even return to their old lives in the liberal metropolis?
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It’s tempting to imagine what life might be like for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump should they decide to ditch D.C. and return to New York City—a move that, according to many insiders, is not a question of "if" but "when."

How will they be received? Will they seamlessly transition back into their former lives, as if the past 18 months were just a blip on the radar? To say that much has changed since the first daughter and her husband left New York in early 2017 would be, well, a bit of an understatement.

When they return to their four-bedroom penthouse at a Trump building on Park Avenue, they’ll do so as former representatives of an administration that has faced harsh opposition throughout Manhattan. And while they'll have the support of Trump's closest New York City allies—many of whom are among the Manhattan elite—their homecoming might not be smooth sailing. (A White House spokesman for the couple did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.)

"Socially it will be a little awkward," says former Page Six editor Paula Froelich. "I think it’ll be more awkward for Jared, because he was not really raised here and doesn’t have the old friends that Ivanka has. He didn’t engender the good will that Ivanka did."

Trump, who made her effective debut in New York society in Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson's 2003 documentary, Born Rich, might consider going back to the extracurricular role she played when she attended galas for charitable organizations like the American Museum of Natural History and the New York City Police Foundation, where she once served as a board member.


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Joshua Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Seryl Kushner, and Jared Kushner attend 2014 Library Lions Gala in New York.

"If she chooses to walk the red carpet and support those endeavors, it is my opinion that she will be welcomed back with open arms and full glasses of champagne," says publicist and society columnist R. Couri Hay. (Town & Country reached out to a representative for the NYC Police Foundation to ask if Trump could resume her duties there, but he said the organization had no comment.)

Meanwhile, some feel that Kushner—who's faced several investigations associated with his family's real-estate company—might have a tougher time.

"No one’s ever going to hold up New York society as a bastion of ethics or good taste. At the end of the day you can always buy your way in, so will that change? Probably not, as long as their checks don’t bounce."

Raised in Livingston, New Jersey, the 37-year-old remains close with his parents. After his father, Charles, was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2005 after being convicted of 18 counts of tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions, and witness tampering, Jared flew down to Alabama on weekends to visit him during the year that he served his sentence. "He was the best son to his father in jail, the best son to his mother, who suffered terribly, and he was a father to his siblings," Charles told New York magazine."I speak with my father about everything in my life," Jared said.


Joshua, Charles, and Jared Kushner in April 2014

His wife and her own family appear to be tight with the in-laws, too. In early June, Ivanka and her brother Don Jr. were spotted on an Amtrak train from Baltimore to New York sitting with Charles and Seryl Kushner.

Perhaps they were strategizing on how to deal with the fallout from some legal issues. Charles recently told the Real Deal that the family real-estate company he founded more than 30 years ago, which Jared stepped in to run while he was in prison, is no longer facing an investigation by the New York City Department of Buildings that involves alleged false construction permits filed by the company. "They said, done, it’s over," he told the publication. A spokesman for the city department, however, said that it was still investigating the matter.

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That's on top of another investigation by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, whose acting director and general counsel announced in April that he was looking into whether two loans of more than $500 million to the Kushner Companies might have violated any criminal laws or regulations.

In addition, Vornado Realty Trust recently declared that it's selling its 49-percent stake in the Kushners' 666 Fifth Avenue back to the family company for $120 million; they paid $1.8 billion—setting a national record price for an office building—in 2007, just before the financial meltdown.

So while Jared may have some woes to contend with if he opts to return to the family business, 36-year-old Ivanka is reportedly still collecting income to the tune of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization. Instead of divesting, she placed her privately held clothing company in a trust—a move that elicited the ire of ethics watchdogs after the Wall Street Journal reported that she had worn her brand's products in 68 percent of her social media posts between the day she joined the White House as a staffer and October 2017. Once she returns to New York, the company she founded will surely be excited to have her back at the helm, if she so chooses.


Lauren Davis, Claire Bernard, Tinsley Mortimer, Ivanka Trump and Olivia Chantecaille attend the American Museum of Natural History's Winter Dance on February 17, 2005

The couple might not be as well-received by all the prominent New Yorkers with whom they used to socialize. One person that may have an awkward time seeing Ivanka again is Natalie Portman, who attended Trump and Kushner's nuptials in 2009 and invited Trump to her own in 2012. The actress campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and said that the Trump administration was "taking us backwards on civil-rights issues" when she promoted her film Jackie the following year.

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And Emmy Rossum, another actress who was at the Trump/Kushner wedding, has been a vocal Trump critic on social media.

Even closer to home, Jared's brother Joshua Kushner attended the Women's March in Washington the week of Trump's inauguration and Instagrammed a photo of his girlfriend, model Karlie Kloss, holding a sign that read "Load Minds, Not Guns" at the March for Our Lives gun-control rally in March. He also reportedly donated $50,000 to the cause.

"It is no secret that liberal values have guided my life and that I have supported political leaders that share similar values," Joshua told Forbes last year. "But neither political party has a monopoly on the truth or on constructive ideas for our country," he added.

Ivanka's old friend Lauren Santo Domingo (née Davis), on the other hand, has been slightly less diplomatic. The Moda Operandi co-founder and Vogue editor, whose representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story, has been critical of Trump and her role in her father's administration.

Suffice to say, the couple won't be hitting the town with the Santo Domingos any time soon. But David Patrick Columbia, who writes about parties and goings-on-about-town on a daily basis for his New York Social Diary, says that Trump and Kushner were never considered major figures on the party circuit anyway.

"I never saw them out—I never saw them at a charity gala," he says. "That doesn't mean they weren’t at them, but I never saw them."

Columbia says his impression has always been that the young couple was focused on their family. That attitude may come from their parents. "The Kushners and the Trumps have always had a very close family life, from what I know of both of them," Columbia says.

The Kushners are also Modern Orthodox Jews, and Ivanka converted before she married Jared at her father's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey in 2009. They now observe the Sabbath and reportedly sought special rabbinical permission to travel by car on the Friday of Donald Trump's inauguration in January 2017.

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All of this adds up to their return making less of a splash than one might expect. There is, however, the potential for a repeat of the December 2016 incident in which a fellow passenger on a JetBlue flight from New York to San Francisco verbally accosted Trump, reportedly telling her, "Your father is ruining the country."

That passenger, a lawyer, was later removed from the flight, but how would a similar situation pan out in a New York City restaurant?

One chef, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that if a loaded patron attempted to approach them he would step in—just as he would "with any drunk patron offending any other guest" in order to "protect the experience" of all the diners at the restaurant.

But Melissa O’Donnell, chef and owner of Lil Gem on the Lower East Side, says the couple wouldn't be welcome at her Lebanese restaurant in the first place. "The room is small and their presence would disrupt the otherwise convivial, friendly atmosphere of the restaurant," she explains.

Other chefs and restauranteurs said that New Yorkers are used to celebrity guests and dignitaries. "While heads might turn for a minute or two, thereafter they would simply be treated like any other guest," one industry insider said. And if their Secret Service protection operates the same way they have in past New York restaurant situations, the muscle will likely "take their seat at a table nearby and allow the meal to proceed 'business as usual,'" another offered.

Perhaps things will be "business as usual" on all accounts for Jared and Ivanka when they return to New York. After all, they've got something that matters even more than political power in this town: money—and lots of it.

"No one’s ever going to hold up New York society as a bastion of ethics or good taste," Froelich says. "At the end of the day you can always buy your way in, so will that change? Probably not, as long as their checks don’t bounce."

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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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