David Apol, the head of the US federal government’s ethics agency, has revealed that White House officials have been reviewing Jared Kushner’s family real estate business. The news comes just weeks after Kushner lost his top security clearance within the White House.
Jared Kushner, is Senior Advisor in the White House and President Trump’s son-in-law. He is the elder son of real-estate developer Charles Kushner, and is married to Ivanka Trump, President Trump's daughter and advisor. He was chief executive officer of the real-estate holding and development company Kushner Companies, and of Observer Media, publisher of the New York Observer. He is the co-founder and part owner of Cadre, an online real-estate investment platform.
He was reportedly one of the main driving forces behind Trump’s decision to fire then FBI director James Comey. He was also present at a meeting with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya. The person who set up that meeting stated that he had information about Hillary Clinton from Russian players.
In November 2017, Senate judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein sent a letter noting that Kushner failed to disclose emails he received about WikiLeaks and "a Russian backdoor overture" in 2016. “Other parties have produced September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr. Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official,” said senators Charles Grassley and Dianne Feinstein.
Kushner’s former real estate business is reportedly struggling, and he is currently in deep debt. According to the latest revisions in the financial disclosure forms signed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the couple’s debts are at a range of approximately $31 million to $155 million. Since joining the White House in 2017, he has drawn more money out of three separate lines of credit.
In 2017, the real estate company owned by the Kushners incurred criticism over its use of a program that grants visas to wealthy overseas investors. The New York Times had reported that this particular program was under investigation by federal prosecutors in the US.
In February 2018, reports emerged that Kushner had lost his top security clearance. He will no longer be allowed to attend key meetings including the daily briefings with the President. Prior to losing his access, Kushner had one of the most expansive portfolios in the White House.
Now, the head of the federal government’s ethics agency, David Apol, has revealed that White House officials have been reviewing Kushner’s family real estate business. In particular, it is regarding the $500m in loans granted to the company. Officials are probing whether it may have violated ethics or criminal law.
Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell has since responded noting that “the White House counsel concluded there were no issues involving Jared”. He also denied any improprieties by Kushner, saying “he was not involved with his former company after he entered government service; the transactions in question came after that; he had nothing to do with those transactions; the transactions had nothing to do with any of his meetings in the White House”.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders firmly denied any formal investigation into Kushner. She said, “While the White House Counsel’s office does follow-up with staff to assist with compliance with various ethics standards, it is not probing whether Kushner violated the law.” She added, “The White House indicated to OGE that we are aware of news reports and would proceed as appropriate. Beyond that, we do not and will not have any further comment.”
House Democrats, however, have requested further information regarding this investigation and the conclusions drawn by the White House counsel. In a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn, Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois both have requested clarity. The $500 million loans were provided by Citi Group and Apollo Global Management. Kushner reportedly met with top officials from both these companies before the loans had been granted to his former company.
Our assessment is that despite keeping a low profile, Jared Kushner has emerged as one of the most controversial members of the Trump administration. His extensive debt and his family business make him especially vulnerable. In fact, in 2018, the Washington Post reported that officials in United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico have discussed how Kushner’s debts and his business could be manipulated for their own personal gain.
Read more: Kushner loses clearance