skip to main content
caption: Eli Sanders and Andrea Bernstein at Town Hall Seattle
Enlarge Icon
Eli Sanders and Andrea Bernstein at Town Hall Seattle
Credit: KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

American Oligarchs: Inside Trump, Kushner family histories

While many Americans were adjusting to the new Twitter-fueled norms of the presidency of Donald Trump, reporter Andrea Bernstein set out to investigate his business and family history in thorough detail.

Andrea Bernstein is the co-host of the Trump, Inc. podcast, produced by WNYC and ProPublica. Her new book is American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power.

On the Trump family side, we meet 16-year-old Friedrich Trump, who landed in New York around the time the Statue of Liberty arrived in America. After a stint as a barber, he ventured to Seattle and the wider Northwest, where he reportedly built a nest egg in the restaurant and brothel business.

Friedrich later returned to New York where he invested in real estate. He died suddenly in 1918, of the Spanish flu, with a net worth of $31,000. His wife Elizabeth and son Fred went into business together to grow the family fortune — and it turns out — the basis for an American presidency.

Bernstein also uncovered how the Kushner family, which Trump’s daughter Ivanka married into, appears to have entered the United States fraudulently.

“The author, who conducted hundreds of interviews and read more than 100,000 documents to create this damning portrait of two clearly unscrupulous families, credits investigative journalists before her, especially Wayne Barrett, whose 1992 Trump biography exposed his decades of nefarious business and personal dealings.” – Kirkus Review

Andrea Bernstein spoke with The Stranger’s Associate Editor Eli Sanders and took questions at Town Hall Seattle on January 29. KUOW’s Sonya Harris recorded their talk.