Promoting His Memoir, Kushner Offers Tortured Defenses of Trump

WASHINGTON — Making the rounds promoting his new memoir, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald J. Trump, this week ran into the question he has managed for months to avoid commenting on publicly: Did he agree with Mr. Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen?

“I think that there’s different words,” Mr. Kushner told the talk show host Megyn Kelly during a friendly interview on SiriusXM. He added, “I think there’s a whole bunch of different approaches that different people have taken, and different theories.”

Pressed to say whether Mr. Trump lost, Mr. Kushner demurred. “I believe it was a very sloppy election,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot of issues that I think if litigated differently may have had different insights into them.”

In reality, the words that election officials have used to describe the 2020 contest are “the most secure in American history,” and judges across the country rejected nearly all of the several dozen lawsuits that allies of Mr. Trump filed alleging fraud.

Mr. Kushner’s reluctance to concede as much reflected the contortions he is now attempting as he tries to sell a book whose success hinges on his close ties to Mr. Trump. At the same time, he is seeking to keep his distance from the lies and misdeeds that paved the way for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Like the memoir itself, titled “Breaking History,” the task involves a highly selective narrative that casts Mr. Kushner as a young star getting things done in the White House without getting his hands dirty.

“Before I came into office,” the unelected Mr. Kushner said on Tuesday, settling into the “Fox & Friends” couch, the “conventional thinking” had been that there could never be peace between Israel and Arab nations “until you have peace with the Palestinians.”

In that interview, Mr. Kushner, who was a senior adviser in the Trump White House, credited himself with helping to bring an “outsider’s point of view” to the world’s intractable problems.

“Before I came into office,” Mr. Kushner said, the “conventional thinking” had been that there could never be peace between Israel and Arab nations “until you have peace with the Palestinians.”Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

In another interview, he noted that his father-in-law had “asked me to take lead on building the wall.”

During a virtual book event, Mr. Kushner even suggested he might be immortal, saying that he had prioritized exercising since leaving the White House because his generation could be “the first generation to live forever.”

When it comes to Jan. 6 and the election lies that spurred the riot, Mr. Kushner is less sure-footed. In the interview with Ms. Kelly, he labored to defend Mr. Trump’s feverish obsession with the 2020 election.

“What’s happened over the last year is that there has been a debate that’s been badly needed in this country about election integrity,” he said.

After Mr. Trump left office, Mr. Kushner, a former Democrat, tried to rehabilitate his own image by telling people that he had wanted nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s lies about a stolen election; he writes in his book that he was eager to begin a new, forward-looking chapter.

But in marketing the book, which is currently among the best sellers on Amazon, he has had to reckon with the darker elements of Mr. Trump’s presidency, including the effort to overturn a democratic election.

During Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Kushner, a political novice, stepped into the public eye when he wanted credit on an issue, like criminal justice reform or the Abraham Accords. But he receded into the background and evaded responsibility when it suited him, such as when he departed for the Middle East while his father-in-law refused to concede the 2020 election and tried to use the Justice Department to remain in power.

In videotaped testimony to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, Mr. Kushner made clear his disdain for some White House officials who tried to steer his father-in-law away from unlawful efforts to overturn the results, saying that he considered threats by the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, to resign as “whining.”

In marketing the book, Mr. Kushner has had to reckon with the darker elements of Mr. Trump’s presidency, including the effort to overturn a democratic election.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

With no clear audience for a book written by a former Democrat who has been shunned by his former social circle and is viewed skeptically by Mr. Trump’s right-wing base, Mr. Kushner is relying on his father-in-law’s followers to buy what he is selling — leading him to offer a series of tortured defenses of Mr. Trump’s most extreme conduct.

On Wednesday, when asked on Fox News if Mr. Trump made a mistake in taking classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office, Mr. Kushner stepped carefully.

“President Trump, he governed in a very peculiar way,” he said. “When he had his documents, I’m assuming he did what he thought was appropriate.”

Mr. Kushner has condemned the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, saying on Tuesday, “It just seems like what they keep doing is breaking norms in their attempt to try to get him.”

After leaving office, Mr. Trump was told repeatedly by federal officials to give back government materials that did not belong to him. He was found to have possessed hundreds of pages of documents with classified markings — the kind of conduct that Mr. Kushner eagerly encouraged his father-in-law to attack Hillary Clinton for in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump received a subpoena from the Justice Department before the eventual search of his Florida home for remaining sensitive materials.

As Mr. Kushner offers his sanitized version of the Trump presidency, his father-in-law’s political operation has stepped up to help him hawk his book. Since mid-August, Mr. Trump’s Save America political action committee has sent out well over a dozen emails pressing supporters to make a donation in exchange for a copy of the book.

“I am so proud,” Mr. Trump wrote to supporters, calling the book “a MUST-READ.”

Most of the interviews granted by Mr. Kushner have been to personal friends of Mr. Trump, like Sean Hannity of Fox News, or to the former president’s deep admirers, like the radio host Mark Levin.

The friendly venues have mostly spared Mr. Kushner tough questions about Mr. Trump’s role during the Jan. 6 attack. His interviewers have also steered clear of asking about how Mr. Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, whom he defends in his book as a reformer on certain topics.

Despite intimating for months to anyone who would listen that he would not be back in Mr. Trump’s political circle, Mr. Kushner has not ruled out coming back to Washington if his father-in-law ran for president again and won.

“It really would have to be all the right conditions to be willing to do that again,” he told Ms. Kelly.

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