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White House Power Player Jared Kushner Is Keeping Parts of His Real Estate Empire

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Justin Elliott and Al Shaw report in ProPublica:

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and the heir to a family real estate empire, has emerged as perhaps Donald Trump’s closest adviser. A near-constant presence by Trump’s side, his portfolio includes business, tax, political, and foreign policy matters.

Last month his lawyers outlined a plan under which they said Kushner would avoid any possibility that his White House work would overlap with his business interests.

The plan didn’t have much detail. But newly releaseddocuments and statements from the White House are making the picture clearer: Kushner is keeping parts of his family business.

Kushner retains some real estate holdings associated with Kushner Companies, a White House spokesperson said in an email.

Kushner has divested ownership of a number of Kushner Companies businesses and one large Manhattan office building, the White House spokesperson said. But the White House and a Kushner Companies spokesman declined to say what Kushner is keeping and what he has given up.

Kushner’s decision to keep some of his business, ethics lawyers say, raises questions about how he will recuse himself from government matters that could affect his own bank account.

“What mechanism will the White House use to ensure that Kushner will not participate in matters that affect his retained financial interests?” asked Kathleen Clark, an ethics law expert and professor at Washington University School of Law. “We, the public, should have information about what types of matters Kushner is going to have to recuse from.”

Given the sprawling and complicated nature of the Kushner family business, the issue is not academic.

The New York Times recently explored Kushner Companies’ dealings with a Chinese firm that has ties to that country’s government. Kushner Companies has also had relationships with a number of large financial firms such as Goldman Sachs that will likely be affected by Trump administration policies.

Kushner Companies’ real estate holdings are intertwined with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants that may face an overhaul during the Trump administration, as Bloomberg recently reported.

Asked about Kushner’s plan to avoid conflicts, White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not offer any specific areas that he will recuse himself from. She said in an email:

“Like other government employees, Mr. Kushner will recuse from particular matters that would have a direct and predictable effect on his financial interests and will comply with financial disclosure requirements.”

Here’s why recusals are needed and how they work

Kushner was hired as an executive branch employee, so he must comply with the law that makes it a crime for an official to work on a government matter that will affect his financial interests. (As president, Donald Trump is, famously, exempt from that law.)

People entering the government have two primary ways of resolving conflicts: selling off the assets that may pose a conflict, or keeping ownership and recusing themselves from government matters that could affect the holdings.

For officials like Kushner who hold onto assets, there is usually a memo outlining areas of recusal, ethics lawyers say. Sometimes there is a screening process so the official isn’t invited to, say, a meeting on a matter that would affect their holdings. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2017 at 1:01 pm

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