In the wildly different world of just four years ago, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump raised $41,000 for then-Senate hopeful Cory Booker — and even hosted a fundraiser for him in their home on Park Avenue.
Does Booker regret that relationship now that they're heavily scrutinized advisers in the divisive (and Republican) Trump White House?
“No,” he told the hosts of BuzzFeed News podcast Another Round on Saturday. “Listen, I wouldn't take a dime from them now, but this was a time when they were Democrats. I mean, they were supporting Hillary Clinton, uh, and the Kushner family were big New Jersey Democrats, and really helped to fight against Chris Christie and a lot of other folks.”
He added that he was not the only national Democrat the couple gave money to, that he doesn’t think “there's any problem with taking money from Democrats,” and that “no one” would have imagined in 2013 that they would go on to become Trump White House advisers. He said he had not had a conversation with Kushner or Trump “really since the — since well before the election.”
“I literally have people saying, ‘I'm unfollowing you on Facebook 'cause you are in league with the Kushners, and the Trumps,' and I'm like, ‘What planet are you from? Are you listening to the media here?’ I'm leading, in the Senate, criticism of those folks,” Booker said. “So that's what you, that's what folks don't seem to understand.”
The Senate fundraiser has been a minor point of contention this year — illustrative to some progressives of the connections between some Democrats, like Booker, and the big-money donors, based in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, who have traditionally funded Democratic campaigns, and who come with their own set of priorities. Bernie Sanders’ surprise success of a campaign — in which he raised more than $100 million on the strength of small donations — further exacerbated the tension within the Democratic Party about what kinds of money should be accepted and from whom. The New Jersey senator said on Saturday he does not take donations from pharmaceutical executives, but also defended fundraising in general as part of the current political system.
“Look, it is hard, in this horrible system we have,” he said, “that is so ruled, especially thanks to Citizens United, with all of this outrageous money flowing into politics. It is hard.”
Tracy Clayton: You were, you played football. I tried to be fancy, and I–
Cory Booker: The older I get the better I was.
TC: Ahh. So, since you were playing football, there's been a lot of information and a lot of research done on how dangerous—
CB: Oh this is a very good question, I -
TC: It is -
CB: I get this a lot.
TC: Yeah. So like the whole concussion, CTE type thing.
TC. If you knew then what you know now, would you yourself play, and, should you have a son, and he wanted to play—
Heben Nigatu: With Mindy Kaling.
TC: She said that part; I didn't.
HN: Should you have a potential son.
TC: If you were counseling a, a, male child, who wanted to play football, would you recommend he do it, with the risks?
CB: So, uh, I owe so much to that sport, and especially to my teammates in high school, and college, and my high school coaches, I always joke that I got into Stanford because of a 4.0, 1600: 4.0 yards per carry, 1,600 receiving yards.
TC: Sports joke, I get it! That's funny.
CB: Oh, thank you very much. Um, so, I, so much of who I am today is built on that foundation and when I was at the Brick Towers reunion, right before here, there were some young kids who were being coached in Pop Warner football, and I think that's great. I think that the kind of concussions that we're talking about, the kind of force that people are hitting with, that's, that's at the later levels where you get these athletes now that are so many stronger and faster than my generation were. So, I would let my child play football. Um, I think I would worry about them if they had the same trajectory as I did. I stood on the sidelines of, um, a Stanford football game recently and I'm like, "You guys are defying physics." You know, masses that large should not move that quickly, and the collisions, I was like, "Whoa." So I think that we have a lot of research to do to see if there's anything we can do to minimize the kind of damages, I give a lot of credit to referees now that will call people out for things like spearing and others, but I think I would let my child play.
HN: Are you familiar with Anne Hathaway?
CB: Am I familiar with Anne Hathaway? The New Jersey born and raised—
TC: Shoutout to Jersey!
CB: Who, who, who, I'm telling you in Les Mis she tore up that song "On my Own."
HN: Yes, yes.
TC: Mmm, mmmm.
CB: You don't think she did a good version of “On My Own”?
TC: Listen, after you've seen Les Mis, like the play the play, you can't look at that movie and be happy about it, you can't.
TC: You know, like, New Jersey aside, but listen—
CB: But you know how they filmed that play, amazing, I've never seen a musical done, they didn't do this for Rent, the movie, they literally played the music and played the music, and it wasn't dubbed over, the actors were singing it.
TC: That's why the movie wasn't good. But you know what? Let's have a spirited debate about this later—
HN: I lost—
TC: I will talk about Les Mis forever.
HN: My point, my point—
CB: I sincerely, I sincerely, I, I welled up when I heard Anne Hathaway sing that song.
TC: Oh bless your heart, you're so sweet.
CB: It was so powerful! And you know I played it in the shower, “On my own…”
TC: We going to get you the soundtrack, okay, this is such a good -
CB: You and I would have a duet right now.
TC: I mean, we can, but I was thrown off by your bad musical opinions—
HN: Wow, wow.
TC: But I wasn't—
CB: Ouch, ouch.
TC: Everybody calm down!
CB: I wanna see your Spotify playlist! Let's do it right now.
HN: Listen, when we get through this interview. My point in bringing her up—
CB: You didn't know you were going to insinuate—
HN: I did not know there would be a Les Mis fight. I feel like, okay, I feel like, Anne Hathaway, she's from Jersey, she works hard—
CB: Can I tell you a little gossip?
TC: Can we hold the gossip?
CB: Wow, you want to hold the gossip.
TC: Hey! We have a lot of important questions.
CB: I was going to tell you about somebody she kissed.
TC: Was it you?
TC: We'll talk about it later then, it's fine.
Cb: No, okay I'm sorry.
HN: My point is—
CB: I felt good that I had like, I had celebrity gossip, I rarely have any celebrity gossip.
TC: We do want it. We do want the gossip.
HN: Anne Hathaway, from Jersey—
CB: You just stole my big moment, but go ahead—
HN: Works hard, she works hard, she wins Oscars, but for some reason there's a strain of conversation around her that's like, “She's just trying too hard,” is maybe the criticism? I can't quite sum it up. Do you ever feel like you're the Anne Hathaway of politics? Like people—
CB: Wow. Wow.
HN: People are like, he's from Jersey, he works hard, he's out here, you know.
TC: You have the gossip though.
HN: He's doing all the things—
CB: I don't know what to say.
TC: Okay, okay, we are not saying—
CB: I just heard Anne Hathaway dissed royally—
TC: Hey, listen
CB: Like the Les Mis, singing Anne Hathaway, that's just terrible.
TC: Okay Senator Booker, here's the thing. We are not calling you “the Anne Hathaway of politics.”
CB: Okay good.
TC: The thing about—
HN: I live for the Princess Diaries.
TC: No, yeah.
HN: Also Anne Hathaway.
TC: I see nothing wrong with Anne Hathaway, she seems to be a good actress who's good at her job, who gets awards.
TC: I would say the same thing about you as a politician, but I feel like a lot of people are like, “He's just too nice, he's too earnest, he's, something's off about how good-hearted he seems to be be.” And maybe it's just that you know, charming men, you aren't, you know, I don't trust a charming man. Except for you and my father, the only two.
TC: Um, but like have you heard this criticism about yourself? Is this the first time?
CB: This hurts, this is the first time.
TC: But we didn't say—
CB: No I'm joking, I'm joking, I'm joking. Look, I just like, you know look, what matters, and at the end of the day I think all of us, what matters to me and what I advise young people all the time is to be the boldest unapologetic authentic version of yourself. It was one of our presidents who said, “Everyone is born an original but sadly most die copies.” You know, I, I don't, I'm not gonna—
I don't care what people say about me, critiques or whatever. I just gotta be me, and frankly you know parts I feel good about my life and career is when I didn't listen to people that told me, “Don't do that because it might not work out or might not be good for your career.” I've just kind of been myself, and let the chips fall where they may. And, again, you can't be in politics without getting a lot of criticism from a lot of different corners, um, and so I've heard an array of criticism about myself. Um, and you kind of just have to say, “That's a good sign if you're criticizing me, that means I'm getting stuff done,” you know. And I'm like, you know, I'm only three, four years into my senate career, but I love going home to Newark.