In a statement announcing the pardons early Wednesday, the White House said that Jemal was “credited with rebuilding many urban inner cities” and that he was “instrumental to various other charitable causes.”
Jemal, a Brooklyn native, is close with the family of Jared Kushner, a top Trump adviser who is married to Ivanka Trump. Jemal and Jared’s father, Charles, own neighboring homes on the Jersey Shore.
When Charles Kushner went to prison in 2005, Jemal gave his German shepherd to Jared’s mother, Seryl, for protection. Two years later, when Jemal was being sentenced for fraud related to his company’s financial machinations, Jared Kushner wrote a letter in support of Jemal and appeared in the courtroom for his sentencing. Trump pardoned Charles Kushner in December.
Jemal, 79, said Wednesday that he had not spoken to Trump about his pardon and was “not sure why he pardoned me.”
“I assume he felt I deserved to be pardoned,” Jemal said. “I’m still the same person I was a day ago or a month ago or a year ago . . . I’m certainly glad I was pardoned.”
Jemal initially faced much more serious charges stemming from his efforts to influence a D.C. official for lucrative government leases. In 2005, FBI agents raided the offices of Douglas Development, and months later a federal grand jury indicted him, his son Norman and the company’s leasing executive on conspiracy, bribery, fraud and tax evasion charges.
A jury acquitted Douglas Jemal on six of the seven charges and Norman Jemal on all charges. Jemal’s leasing chief, Blake Esherick, was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to eight months in prison. Two other employees pleaded guilty to tax evasion.
Douglas Jemal admitted no wrongdoing in the fraud case. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a $175,000 fine.
Mark H. Dubester, the lead prosecutor on the case, noted that Trump pardoned only Jemal in the waning hours of his presidency — not the people who worked for him, whom Dubester called “far less culpable.”
“Pardons like this are corrosive and send the message that there are two standards of accountability,” Dubester said. “One for the wealthy and well-connected, and one for everyone else.”
Over the years, Jemal has been a prolific donor to candidates of both political parties, giving in particular to officials who represent areas where he has business interests. He made two larger donations, totaling $100,000, to the Republican National Committee during the 2020 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
When Donald and Ivanka Trump won the rights to develop the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue NW into a luxury hotel, Jemal introduced them to retail brokers and other local contacts.
At his sentencing, Douglas Jemal told U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina: “I care about buildings that have been abandoned and left alone. And I care about people who’ve been abandoned and left alone. I care very much about this adopted city of mine.”
Correction: Earlier versions of this article misstated when Charles Kushner went to prison and when Douglas Jemal was convicted and sentenced.