Trump USAID hopeful is a Kushner ally

Martin J. Silverstein. Photo by: U.S. Embassy Montevideo

One of the lead candidates to be the next administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development has close links to top Trump aide Jared Kushner, and advocated in a court case on his father’s behalf.

Martin J. Silverstein is not widely known in development circles but has emerged in the mix to head the U.S. aid agency. He served as ambassador to Uruguay under President George W. Bush and is currently senior counsel at Greenberg Traurig, the same law firm where former New York Mayor and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani works as a senior advisor.

In 2005, when Charles Kushner — the father of Trump’s influential son-in-law and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner — faced sentencing for tax evasion and other crimes, Silverstein was one of 700 people who submitted letters to the court on the elder Kushner’s behalf, praising his charitable contributions and arguing for a reduced sentence. Kushner was ultimately sentenced to two years in prison.

Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, is reported to hold significant sway over Trump’s personnel choices. When Trump dismissed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie from his transition team in November, many pundits speculated Kushner was exacting revenge on Christie, who was the U.S. attorney who prosecuted Charles Kushner more than a decade earlier. Kushner has denied that he played any role in the rift between Trump and Christie.

On Jan. 11 Trump met with Silverstein, according to a readout from his transition team, which also confirmed that Trump is considering the former ambassador for a position at USAID. On the same day Trump met with Mark Green, president of the International Republican Institute, who is also seen as a front runner for USAID’s top job.

On Saturday Trump issued a presidential memorandum that listed USAID’s administrator as a permanent member of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee.

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About the authors

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.
  • Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.