It was that point in the day when dinner was done and all three kids were tucked into their beds in rooms down the hall, presumably asleep, and they just looked at each other and said, “Are you ready?” before collapsing into their white sofa on the third of three floors in their mostly white rental apartment overlooking the ocean. Jared Kushner picked up the remote and turned on the television. He and his wife were rewatching the first season of Game of Thrones. There was time to do things like this now that they were settled into their new life as Florida residents and semi-private citizens.
It was this exact moment that they fantasized about when they decided to leave “the jackals” (as the couple refers to DC’s native species) and head for the sunshine in South Florida. Peace. Quiet. HBO. They’d just gotten to the episode when King Robert pays a visit to Ned Stark, his good, honorable, loyal, surrogate brother and close counselor. It had been Stark who served as general in the key battles that made Robert king. Stark, too, by this point in the season, had settled into life with his wife and five children. He was content. He needed nothing. He had his family and his fiefdom. King Robert, less so. He wanted Stark back in the fold, as his protector in King’s Landing. The king made pleas and promises. Stark thought about turning him down. Why would he give up a good thing? Stark relents; the pull and the power are too strong. “Yes” is the only answer.
By the end of the season—spoiler—the king is dead while Stark has his head sliced off in front of a cheering crowd, including his children.
The couple on the couch knew what was coming. “Don’t fucking do it, Ned!” Kushner urged the screen. “Don’t fucking do it!”
It’s this story that the Kushners have taken to telling friends who ask whether or not he and Ivanka Trump would go back to Washington should their king win in 2024. And one that holds particular weight now that Donald Trump has officially thrown his hat in the ring. On the heels of the announcement, Ivanka put out a statement that read: “I love my father very much. This time around, I am choosing to prioritize my young children and the private life we are creating as a family. I do not plan to be involved in politics. While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena.” Jared, for his part, was in the room with his father-in-law.
For Ivanka, this clear line probably felt necessary. She had been front and center the last go-around, fundraising and stumping, then ultimately working in the White House. Without her Tuesday night statement, it could be assumed that she will jump right back in, particularly because she has kept much of her life private since they left Washington. It is the first time that she’s drawn a boundary around her relationship with him—not when his sex life was the subject of tabloid fodder when she was in grade school; not while she was his employee for years, first at the Trump Organization, then in the White House; not while he was putting children in cages. Her work and her life and his work and his life have blended and blurred, and, for decades, that worked. She is different now. So is her father, sort of. And so is her husband, who’s happier and richer and more settled than ever. Why would they give up the good thing they’ve got?
It’s not a crazy question, considering the lush life they left before, and what they reaped for it. Ivanka had her own fashion brand, plus a role alongside her father at his company and on The Apprentice. Kushner was toiling away at his family’s real estate firm while piddling around with the institution that was The New York Observer. They were in love and invited to the Met Ball. They were really very rich and very pretty and very much on their way, even if that way was more of a gilded loop through Park Avenue galas, North Jersey golf, Southampton summers, and yachts on the Mediterranean and back again, ad infinitum. They gave up their spot on that circuit as soon as Trump won. In the process, most of their former acquaintances not only distanced themselves, but publicly registered disdain for what the couple became part of. Ivanka had to shutter her line over ethics concerns. Kushner put his investments in a trust, run by his brother and mom. They both wound up testifying in front of a handful of congressional committees—including the January 6th investigation—about what they knew regarding myriad Trump-related misdeeds.
So it was no surprise when reports surfaced in early December 2020 that the Kushners were eyeing a $32 million plot of land on the high-security, even higher net-worth-populated Indian Creek Island owned by Julio Iglesias. Donald Trump was dug deeply into his election denial by then, helping hatch a plot to stay in the White House. The Trump-Kushners knew they were getting kicked out of DC—though they did not publicly acknowledge the fallacy of “the big lie” until she was interviewed by the January 6th committee—and they knew they were not going back to their old life in New York City. It was a precarious time in Manhattan for everyone, not just the Kushners, at that moment. People had fled the city for greener pastures during the pandemic, and the ultrarich had beat a path to South Florida, seeking refuge from lockdowns and income taxes. A place where masks were not nearly as welcome as MAGA hats. Even Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who’d talked to Kushner nearly every day as the administration figured out its COVID response in 2020, called to welcome the couple down to his state, though the two haven’t seen each other since the move.
Even under those hospitable conditions, Kushner wondered what life would be like for him and his family. It was unclear if he would be able to raise money for the private equity firm he planned to open; or whether their kids would be accepted into a private school, which they had struggled with in Washington; whether they would find a circle of friends willing to be proxy pariahs who would inevitably be doxed online; whether the same Daily Mail photographer who watched them every morning on their way into the West Wing would finally leave them alone. Whether there would be consequences for their association with Trump, or whether, maybe, they’d be celebrated.
Mostly no one took Donald Trump literally or seriously when he said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, apart from the advisers and confidants in his circle who knew it was likely true. They saw how, for years, nothing stuck to him, and he’d freight-train right through minor blows, all the way to the White House. It’ll make you lose sight, staring too long at Trump’s singular impunity, which is what happened to the not small group of people around him who mistook his ability to get away with things for their own. Allen Weisselberg and Paul Manafort. Steve Bannon. The Michaels, Cohen and Flynn. Rick Gates, Roger Stone. Hope Hicks hadn’t been able to find a job outside of conservative circles. Sean Spicer wound up on Dancing with the Stars.
The only person in Trump’s orbit who seems to share the ability to survive is Jared Kushner. Kushner was always under scrutiny in Washington. He skated through when his security clearance was questioned by intelligence officials and overridden by his father-in-law. His close personal relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even after US intelligence agencies concluded that MBS had approved the 2018 killing and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was called into question, as was the deal made by a real estate firm linked to the Qatari sovereign wealth fund to invest $1.2 billion to bail out a Kushner family-owned building in midtown Manhattan after Kushner was involved in negotiations around the diplomatic blockade in Qatar. And Kushner was deposed in the Mueller probe as well as the January 6th investigation.
Despite the fact that his hands were on pretty much everything in the Trump administration—including a botched testing plan in response to COVID that threatened the lives of millions of people—he left Washington without dimming his own prospects. Some six months after President Biden was sworn in and Trump flew off into the sunset, Kushner announced he was launching the investment firm, Affinity Partners. It was a name Ivanka came up with before they left Washington, initially for a payroll company to continue to pay their two White House assistants. By the end of the year, Affinity had raised $3 billion, $2 billion of that from a fund led by bin Salman. Kushner told investors that his own fund would focus on US-based investments as well as those in the Middle East, and act as a continuation of his diplomatic work in the White House. Earlier this year, Affinity Partners announced that it would invest millions of Saudi dollars in Israeli start-ups, which would mark the first time that money from the Saudi Public Investment Fund would be directed to Israel. Kushner told The Wall Street Journal that getting Israelis and Muslims to do business together would “focus people on shared interests and shared values,” and that his work on the Abraham Accords while he was in the White House needed to be “reinforced and nurtured to achieve its potential.”