'The first woman President, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump'
She’s the Trump scion who became a de facto First Lady, he’s the son of a property tycoon and now a senior figure in the Trump White House. But what’s the background story of Washington’s ‘other’ First Couple Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner? How did they meet, what drew them together and what’s driving the duo Steve Bannon mockingly nicknamed ‘Jarvanka’?
After the inauguration this time last year, Tiffany, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump returned to life away from their father’s White House, the Trump brothers to take the reigns of the family business, Tiffany to continue her further education.
But Donald’s eldest daughter Ivanka wasn’t going anywhere. Seeing a Trump White House as a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, and one she and her husband had helped build as prominent figures on the Trump election campaign, Jared and Ivanka had chosen to uproot their lives as an upper crust Manhattan power couple and relocate to Washington.
But after a year riddled with scandal, controversy and instability, are the couple now regretting this move? Or will they ride it out to further their own careers beyond a Trump Presidency?
To find out what’s driving Jared and Ivanka, it’s worth looking back at the origins of this most ambitious of power couples.
How did Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner meet?
Jared and Ivanka met in 2007 at a business lunch set up by Kushner’s mutual friend, who thought the two could work together in a professional context. The pair certainly had a lot in common: both were raised in New York, both were the children of controversial real-estate millionaires (Jared’s father Charles Kushner has served time in federal prison for tax evasion and witness tampering) and both – then in their mid-twenties – were using their family platforms to launch themselves as business figures in their own right, Ivanka with her spin-off, women-focused Trump brand, Jared as heir to his father’s empire and a would-be publishing mogul who had just purchased the The New York Observer.
Why did Jared and Ivanka initially break up?
After a short relationship the couple broke up in 2008, reportedly because of religious differences – Kushner was raised to follow a Modern Orthodox Jewish tradition and his family reportedly expected him to marry someone with the same upbringing. According to a New Yorker article published in 2016, ‘The Kushners hoped that Jared would marry a Jewish woman… Donald Trump is Presbyterian, and Ivanka — who in the documentary “Born Rich” appears wearing a necklace with a silver cross — was not what they’d had in mind.’
But the break didn’t last long. Ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch Wendi Deng – a friend of the couple – apparently contrived to bring them back together by inviting them both on the same yacht trip.
Jared later proposed to Ivanka with a 5-carat diamond ring, and ahead of their 2009 wedding Ivanka converted to Judaism.
Where and when was the Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner wedding?
Ivanka and Jared were married in October 2009 at the Trump National Golf Club (naturally) in Bedminster, New Jersey, a suitably swishy New York society affair with 500 guests.
Ivanka wore custom Vera Wang inspired by Grace Kelly and – never one to miss a business opportunity – diamond jewellery from her own Ivanka Trump line. The couple gave flip-flops and a book of Hebrew as wedding favours and had their first dance to David Gray’s ‘This Year’s Love.’
The Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner wedding was attended by high-profile guests including Natalie Portman, Rupert Murdoch and Anna Wintour. The wedding list, registered at Tiffany, included a $300 ‘vegetable spoon.’
According to one guest, Ivanka’s father Donald Trump made a disastrous wedding toast. The guest told Esquire: ‘He gave the most pathetic, lame, embarrassing speech I’ve heard in a long time’
What do Ivanka and Jared say about their relationship?
In past interviews Ivanka has referred to a shared sense of ambition as a central pillar of her relationship with Jared. The couple arrange weekly date nights, but – as she once joked in an interview with Vogue – ‘my husband’s idea of a date night somehow always involves me looking at one of his development sites.’
‘I’m happy for him when he is in the office working late’ she once told the New Yorker, ‘I know how good that feels when you sit down and return e-mails.’ She also told People that they often work late together in the evening, sitting side-by-side with their laptops.
She has, in appropriately businesslike fashion, summed up their marriage as ‘the best deal we ever made.’
Jared has not said much about the relationship publicly, but when asked about Ivanka in a rare interview late last year said, ‘we got introduced by two business colleagues – I got very, very lucky in that one.’
Ivanka says the couple also pride themselves on being excellent matchmakers for their friends.
‘This is Jared and my secret talent – people don’t realise it’s our hidden skill, we’re matchmakers,’ she told US presenter Sean Hannity. ‘Seven marriages, zero divorces. Hopefully, God-willing that continues.’
Unlike Trump and Melania, body language expert Tonya Reiman told Bustle that from outward appearances the relationship looks strong.
Reiman studied multiple pictures and video clips of the couple, including one where Ivanka is interrupted by Kushner during a television interview. ‘They don’t talk over one another’ she says, ‘When he walked in on her there was a good feeling, jovial. They complement each other.’
What’s really behind the ‘Jarvanka’ move into politics?
Before his father-in-law’s run, Kushner had no involvement in or experience of political campaigns and (much like Trump himself) had spent the majority of his life as a Democrat.
But on the campaign trail, which he joined in 2015 when Trump was still considered a joke candidate, Kushner is credited with – among other things – driving Trump’s digital media strategy.
‘We did not plan our lives to go into politics’, Kushner said in an interview at the Saban Forum late last year, ‘Ivanka’s father decided to run for President and then we slowly got more and more into the campaign and saw more of the country, saw a lot of the problems and the change that he was fighting for.’
While Jared – who prefers to stay out of the limelight -worked away in the background, on the campaign trail Ivanka embraced the spotlight with the polish and poise of a seasoned political operative, doing more interviews than any of the other Trump women, including her stepmother Melania.
At the Republican National Convention, she introduced Trump on stage with an appeal to millennial voters.
‘Like many of my fellow millennials’ she said, ‘I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat. More than party affiliation, I vote on based on what I believe is right, for my family and for my country. Sometimes it’s a tough choice. That is not the case this time. As the proud daughter of your nominee, I am here to tell you that this is the moment and Donald Trump is the person to make America great again.’
What’s all this about a secret Jared-Ivanka power pact?
Jared and Ivanka’s work on the campaign trail was rewarded when Trump took office. Jared was made a senior advisor, and later Ivanka took up an advisory role too, ignoring cries of nepotism to take her own office in the West Wing.
According to Michael Wolff’s explosive new book Fire & Fury – charting the first 100 days of a Trump presidency – Jared and Ivanka were warned by friends and family (including Kushner’s brother Joshua, investor and boyfriend of Karlie Kloss) not to take up official positions in the White House. But, according to the book, the two understood that if they were ever to have any influence on their impulsive father and father-in-law, they would need to be ‘all in.’
But, according to sources who spoke to Wolff, the pair also have ambitions that stretch beyond Trump Sr.’s time in office.
‘Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal’, Wolff writes, ‘If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.’
Speaking at the Saban Forum, Jared said, ‘We view [our time in the Trump White House] like you have a short amount of time to create as much impact as possible in the areas that you really care about, whether it’s working on the Peace Process or the US-Mexico relationship… There’s so much great work that needs to be done and can be done and we feel very honoured to do it.’
Will Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner now quit politics?
According to an article published in Vanity Fair late last year, the arrival of new Chief of Staff John Kelly in July ‘clipped Kushner’s wings’ in the White House.
The Trump term had begun with Kushner being handed a huge portfolio of responsibilities by his father-in-law, who even claimed Jared (a man with no diplomatic experience) could solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since his arrival Kelly has apparently worked to shrink Kushner’s job description.
Fire and Fury also describes a huge ideological rift in the White House between the firebrand Steve Bannon (who left office in August) and the more moderate Jared and Ivanka, with the two camps battling for influence over an impetuous President.
Kushner is also under pressure after been marked out as a potential link in the Russian collusion scandal, which could be a motive for Trump to distance himself from his son-in-law.
And while they might have seen their time in Washington as the ultimate networking opportunity, the couple have reportedly been rejected by elite D.C circles. ‘What is off-putting about them is they do not grasp their essential irrelevance,’ a source told Vanity Fair. ‘They think they are special.’
But, according to Page Six, a close friend of the couple says they’re not going anywhere: ‘They love it in Washington. The kids love it. They are in it for the long haul.’
‘Whether my contribution ultimately lives up to the expectations of some of the harshest critics? Only time will tell’ Ivanka wrote in an email to the Financial Times last year. ‘But I will not be distracted by the noise.’