The outcry surrounding the potential conflicts of interest faced by President Trump’s son-in-law, White House advisor and New York real estate scion Jared Kushner continues to grow. The latest development involves the call for investigation into “potentially fraudulent statements” made by two companies marketing a Kushner Companies development to Chinese EB-5 investors, according to Reuters.
The companies include Chinese immigration agency Qiaowai and the U.S. Immigration Fund (USIF), based in Jupiter, Fla. The firms have worked together to market Kushner Companies’ One Journal Square, a mixed-use tower in Jersey City, N.J., to Chinese buyers through the EB-5 program. At issue? According to Reuters, the promotional materials used by Qiaowai referred to a green card “safeguard,” even though permanent U.S. residency is not guaranteed to EB-5 investors at this stage in the process. As a result, Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has requested a review of Quiaowai claims.
“It is a fundamental rule of the EB-5 program that an applicant’s investment must remain ‘at risk’ up to the end of the alien’s conditional permanent resident status, and a ‘guaranteed’ investment fails this basic EB-5 test; if Qiaowai is in fact guaranteeing the safety of the investment principal, all related EB-5 petitions should be rejected by USCIS,” Grassley wrote in a letter addressed to the Department of Homeland Security and the SEC. (The full text of the letter can be accessed on the senator’s website).
The news comes just a few weeks after Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer referred to both her brother and President Trump in a presentation to Chinese EB-5 investors that focused on One Journal Square. The presentation also included a slide featuring Jared Kushner’s photograph and a description of him as a key decision-maker in the fate of the EB-5 program, which has been temporarily extended and changes to which are currently under debate. The White House has denied Kushner himself had anything to do with the incident, CNBC reported at the time. Meanwhile, the Kushner Companies claimed the slide of Kushner with the reference to the EB-5 program came from the Chinese program organizer, not from the company itself, NBC reported.
Since then, Jared Kushner has also begun to figure prominently in the federal and congressional investigations into ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In addition to reportedly suggesting using the Russian embassy to set up a secret communications channel between the Trump staff and Russian officials, in December of last year Kushner met with Sergey N. Gorkov, a Russian banker with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin and no formal diplomatic post, The New York Times reported. A Reuters article described Gorkov as a trained intelligence officer. Kushner has initially come under government scrutiny because his meetings with Russians officials were not disclosed on his security clearance forms.
Reuters further noted that the bank Gorkov heads, Vnesheconombank, is currently under U.S. sanctions and was involved in a 2015 espionage case in the United States. “The bank said in a statement in March that it had met with Kushner along with other representatives of U.S. banks and business as part of preparing a new corporate strategy,” Reuters reported.
The meeting between Kushner and Gorkov happened at the same time that Kushner was trying to find investors for his company’s office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City, Business Insider noted. The building, which as of April was roughly 25 percent vacant, carries a debt load of $1.2 billion, scheduled to come due within two years.
Meanwhile, The New York Times article pointed out that “During the Trump administration’s first week, administration officials said they were considering an executive order to unilaterally lift the sanctions, which bar Americans from providing financing to and could limit borrowing from Mr. Gorkov’s bank, Vnesheconombank. Removing the sanctions would have greatly expanded the bank’s ability to do business in the United States.”
While all of the above incidents may have been due to coincidence (or even simple poor judgement), they reportedly have strained Kushner’s relationship with his father-in-law. The biggest thorn in the president’s side, according to a Vanity Fair article? That business with Kushner’s sister using the Trump name to lure Chinese investors. “It made it seem as though she was hoping to profit off of Trump, and it undermined his adamant stance on immigration laws,” the article noted.
This would not be the first instance of a Kushner family member being involved in political controversy or federal investigation. Charles Kushner, Jared and Nicole’s father, was convicted of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tempering in 2005. He served two years in jail.