New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was reticent about the Democratic National Committee’s proposal to revoke White House adviserJared Kushner’s security clearance during a 28 May 2017 appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.
The proposal came in response to reports that Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, had sought to open an unofficial “back channel” for communications with the Russian government.
Booker’s lack of support for removing Kushner’s security clearance has prompted some commentators to draw a link to Kushner’s past donations to the New Jersey Senator’s political campaigns. For example, the day after his appearance on State of the Union, the International Business Times (IBT) printed Booker’s remarks about Kushner side by side with details about Kushner’s past donations:
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker — a potential 2020 White House contender and recipient of major campaign contributions from Jared Kushner and others in the Kushner family — declined to endorse his party’s call for the White House to revoke the security clearance of the president’s son-in-law.
Later that day, the Democratize US web site ran with IBT’s report claiming that Booker “came to Kushner’s defense” on CNN, and adding that “progressives are livid.” The web site AlterNet republished IBT’s article with the headline “Democrat Cory Booker Defends Jared Kushner — After Receiving Loads of Campaign Cash.”
First, here is exactly what Cory Booker said on CNN:
Booker’s Stance on Kushner
Host Dana Bash asked the Senator: “Are you with the DNC in wanting Jared’s security clearance to be suspended?”
At first, Booker did not directly answer that question:
Well I think this should really raise a lot of concern and I think the media around this is not overblown, in the sense that you have Republicans and Democrats coming out and saying “Hey, wait a minute, that’s very problematic.”
And so we need to get to the bottom of what was going on, there needs to be an investigation, there needs to be an answering of the obvious questions that are arising. But again, to me, what’s worrying me are the patterns we’re seeing.
So one is this administration’s not talking about our values, cozying up to authoritarian leaders, and the other pattern we have is just this continuous drumbeat of inappropriate contacts with the Russians.
When Bash pressed him, Booker replied:
Well, again, I think we need to first get to the bottom of it and he needs to answer for what was happening at the time. It raises very serious concerns for me.
That [the removal of Kushner’s security clearance] could be a potential outcome that I seek, but I want to understand — at least hear from — Jared Kushner, as well as the administration, about what was exactly going on there.
So Booker did not overtly oppose the removal of Kushner’s security clearance, but he did not support it either. In essence, he expressed a preference for an investigation, including the questioning of Kushner, but left open the possibility that he might subsequently support the removal of his security clearance.
While these remarks fell short of the DNC’s explicit call for Kushner to be fired and have his security clearance revoked, they were roughly similar to those made by other leading Democrats.
On 28 May 2017, Senator Dick Durbin declined to comment at all when asked about the allegations surrounding Jared Kushner, and the question of his keeping his security clearance, on Fox News Sunday.
The following day, Representative Adam Schiff — the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — appeared on ABC’s This Week and supported a “review” of Kushner’s clearance, but not its immediate removal, although he did say he would support revoking it if Kushner was found to have been untruthful. The day after that, Senator Al Franken appeared on CBS This Morning and also stopped short of supporting the proposal.
Now for a look at Jared Kushner’s past contributions to Booker’s political campaigns.
Members of his immediate family also donated to Booker’s 2013 Senate campaign: Jared’s wife Ivanka Trump, mother Seryl Kushner, and sisters Dara Kushner Orbach and Nicole Kushner Meyer gave Booker $10,400 each; Jared’s brother Joshua donated $5,200 and a further $10,000 in 2014.
Ivanka Trump also contributed $10,000 to the Booker Senate Victory committee in 2014.
As for whether the two have a personal relationship: Cory Booker attended the wedding of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in 2009, according to the New York Post. Ivanka Trump hosted a fundraiser for Cory Booker in 2013, according to Politico.
Jared Kushner has personally donated a total of $40,400 to Cory Booker, and members of his immediate family have contributed a further $166,800.
The Kushner family and Ivanka Trump have long records of contributing tens of thousands of dollars to many political candidates, mostly Democrats, over the years. Their donations to Booker were far from unique or unusual, but rather part of a pattern of campaign contributions to New Jersey and New York politicians.
Secondly, Cory Booker famously received $7 million in donations for his 2010 Newark Mayor re-election campaign, and the FEC website lists 17,758 separate individual donations to his 2013 US Senate campaign.
However, even before Donald Trump’s election as President, the Kushner family and Ivanka Trump had a prominence and influence in New York and New Jersey business and politics beyond what is reflected in their donations to Booker.
Does this mean Booker’s comments on CNN on 28 May were influenced by past donations from the Kushner family, and his connections to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump? It’s unclear. The Kushners have been prolific donors to many political candidates over the years, and Booker has received millions of dollars from thousands of contributors during his political career.
And finally, what Booker actually said on CNN shouldn’t be exaggerated. He didn’t “defend” Kushner, as some commentators have claimed. The Senator said Kushner should “answer for what was happening at the time”, and called for an investigation, saying the reports of Kushner’s secret communications with Russia were “not overblown” and raise “very serious concerns.”
However, these two separate facts are both accurate: First, Cory Booker has in the past received campaign donations from Jared Kushner and his family; second, while the DNC called for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked, Booker — like other leading Democrats — declined to go that far.
- 6:23 pm, 31 May 2017: Updated to include the statements of other Congressional Democrats and clarify that the DNC had called for Jared Kushner's security clearance to be revoked.
Sirota, David. “Cory Booker and Jared Kushner: Democrat Received Campaign Cash From Trump’s Son-In-Law.”
International Business Times. 29 May 2017.
Adams, Cindy. “Ivanka Trump Weds Jared Kushner.”
New York Post. 26 October 2009.
Elliott, Rebecca. “Trump To Host Fundraiser For Booker.”
Politico.com. 16 July 2013.