American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power

Andrea Bernstein. Norton, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-1-324-00187-4
Investigative journalist Bernstein debuts with a fine-grained dual biography chronicling the parallel trajectories of the Kushner and Trump families and the concurrent social and political trends that made their rise to power possible. Opening with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s 2009 wedding (“the joining of two famous real estate dynasties, each braided into the worlds of politics and media and celebrity”), Bernstein then meticulously details the families’ American arrivals, documenting the harrowing escape Jared’s grandparents made from Poland during the Holocaust, and Ivanka’s great-grandfather Friedrich Trump’s 1885 journey from Germany to the Canadian Yukon, where his restaurant and brothel became “the origin of the Trump family fortune: selling food, liquor, and sex.” Both families entered into the property development industries, took advantage of New Deal–era legislation to build vast real estate empires, exploited (and perhaps violated) tax laws and urban renewal programs, and aggressively bought political influence. In the book’s most riveting sections, Bernstein details how Jared’s father, Charlie, went to prison for breaking campaign finance laws and hiring a prostitute to blackmail his brother-in-law. Bernstein occasionally tips over the line between snark and sincerity (particularly when it comes to Jared Kushner’s elocution), but by and large she delivers a tough yet fair-minded analysis of how both families embody the dangers wealth and influence pose to American democracy. Progressives will be equal parts horrified and fascinated by this rigorous account. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 01/09/2020
Release date: 01/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-9848-2805-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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