Horsey: Trump Jr. and Kushner find politics a rougher game than real estate

It is no surprise the Trump family keeps running afoul of the rules of politics and government. After all, they have lived and thrived in a very different milieu — the world of New York City real estate.

In that world, it is perfectly normal to say things like, "Don't worry, we'll pay you for your work," even if you don't mean it. Or to say, "Trump Tower is 68 stories tall," even though it rises to only 58. Or to promise, "You'll get a great business education for your money," even though you are pitching the bogus Trump University.


In that world, it is not unusual to take meetings with unsavory characters, like Mafia bosses who become peripheral business partners or Russian mobsters who launder their ill-gotten gains by purchasing a few of your pricey condominiums.

And, in that world, rules can be flexible, aggressive lawyers can help bend the law and the news media rarely takes notice of what you are up to.


Politics and government are different, at the presidential level, in particular. Rules are more rigid, laws are more aggressively enforced, and media attention is intrusive and constant because your personal business is the people's business.

Thus, President Donald Trump's namesake son, Don Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, find themselves in deep trouble. They did not seem to understand that, when asked if they met with anyone linked to the government of Russia, they were supposed to tell the truth. Don Jr. did not know that everyone in the country might one day read the emails he wrote expressing enthusiasm for getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Russian attorney. Jared did not understand that becoming the president's closest confidante could bring with it the risk of jail time. Neither man may have imagined their missteps would land them in front of congressional investigative committees.

That is the predicament in which Mr. Trump the younger and Mr. Kushner now find themselves.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley has let it be known that he wants Trump Jr. to come testify about a June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. According to a sequence of emails sent by Mr. Trump Jr., he got together with the Russian because he had been told Vladimir Putin's government was aiming to help his father's presidential campaign by feeding him damaging information about Ms. Clinton. And, much to their current discomfort, Mr. Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were pulled into the meeting, as well.

Eldest son Don now characterizes the session with the Russian as a "waste of time." Useful or not, legal experts say the mere intent to collude with a foreign entity may be a violation of federal law.

The meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya was just one of several contacts with Russians and other foreign entities that Mr. Kushner failed to mention when he was filling out his application for a top-level security clearance. Now, it is being reported that the president's attorneys are urging that Mr. Kushner refrain from any discussions about the festering Russia scandal with his father-in-law. Apparently, they want to protect their client from being legally tainted by daughter Ivanka's hubby.

At this rate, conversations at family dinners are going to become particularly awkward. Maybe they can just reminisce about the good old days when the only thing the newspapers wrote about was Donald Trump's failing casinos and imploding marriages.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to to see more of his work.