President Donald Trump's pardon of Charles Kushner returns the spotlight to a troubling aspect in the relationship between the president and former Gov. Chris Christie, who prosecuted the case that landed the Democratic donor in prison.

Christie called it "one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes" he ever prosecuted as U.S. attorney.

In an interview on PBS's "Firing Line" last year, Christie recounted: “Mr. Kushner pled guilty, he admitted the crimes. So what am I supposed to do as a prosecutor? If a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, and videotapes it, and then sends the videotape to his sister in an attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury, do I really need any more justification than that?”

 

After Kushner — the father of the man who would marry Trump's daughter, Ivanka —discovered his brother-in-law was cooperating with federal authorities, the wealthy real estate executive hatched a scheme for revenge and intimidation.

Kushner hired a prostitute to lure his brother-in-law, then arranged to have the encounter in a New Jersey motel room recorded with a hidden camera and the recording sent to his own sister.

The scheme didn't work. Kushner in 2005 pleaded guilty to tax evasion and making illegal campaign donations in a case tailor-made for tabloid headlines.

On Wednesday, Trump pardoned Kushner as part of a late-hour clemency spree during the final days of his presidency that has included a slew of campaign aides and allies, among them four of the six Trump associates convicted in the Mueller investigation.

In his book "Let Me Finish," Christie wrote that when Kushner was sentenced he assumed it would be the last time he would hear about "convicted felon Charles Kushner and his deeply tortured family. Little did I know."

Shortly after Christie ended his presidential run in 2016, he was the first major political figure to endorse Trump and became part of his inner circle. He was named the head of Trump's transition team, helped him prepare for his presidential debates and was one of several names floated as a possible vice president nominee.

That's when the conviction of Kushner came back to haunt him.

Christie in his book said he was tipped off by other Trump advisors that Trump's daughter and Jared Kushner were against him being chosen and made an 11th hour case for Mike Pence, who was ultimately chosen for the nomination.

Christie wrote in his book that he hated how Trump "thoughtlessly" threw out the transition plan that Christie and his team put together. Advisor Steve Bannon told Christie it was Jared Kushner who ordered the plan tossed, Christie wrote.

"Governor, any animus I had was now behind me and that the most important thing was electing Donald president and, now that we've done that, making him a great president. I would never do anything to harm you in any way," Christie recalled Jared telling him in front of Trump.

"See, he wouldn't do anything like that," Christie recalled Trump as saying.

Christie said in the book he was offered positions as a presidential special advisor and head of the Republican National Committee, positions he turned down. He did later head up Trump's Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission.

Recently, Christie has offered a differing opinion from Trump over wearing masks and criticized his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. He has not ruled out a presidential run in 2024 that could pit him against Trump.

(Includes material copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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