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Is the House Oversight Committee Going Soft on Jared Kushner Because of the Jan. 6 Hearings?
The clock is ticking to take action…
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On June 2, as you may you recall, Rep. Carolyn Maloney—who chairs the House Oversight Committee—sent a letter to Jared Kushner requesting he hand over all his communications with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) as part of a congressional investigation into whether or not, going forward, rules needed to be tightened regarding what commercial activity former government officials should be allowed to engage in with former counterparts.
Maloney did not accuse Kushner of wrongdoing. She wrote the letter, she said, because of the appearance of a quid pro quo, given that Kushner’s new fund Affinity received an investment of $2 billion from the Saudi Public Investment Fund only six months after Kushner had left the White House—where he had formed a very close relationship with MBS and adopted pro-Saudi foreign policy positions.
A spokesperson for Kushner said at the time, “While achieving six peace deals in the Middle East, Mr. Kushner fully abided by all legal and ethical guidelines both during and after his government service.”
President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, March. 14, 2017 as White House senior adviser Jared Kushner looks on.(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In her letter, Maloney wrote that Kushner had a deadline of two weeks to hand over all his correspondence with MBS. At the time, I discussed with former White House ethics czar Richard Painter the critical need for speed if this investigation was to mean anything.
Painter said that if Kushner didn’t immediately comply with Maloney’s request, he would likely stall for time. If that happened, Painter said, then Congress could vote to subpoena Kushner and then give him a reasonable time to answer the subpoena. But Painter stressed that the clock was ticking. If the subpoena went unanswered, then a majority of the House could vote to declare Kushner in contempt of Congress, if they were serious about getting real transparency from Kushner. But it’s an election year, and Congress will break in September to prepare for the mid-terms—and who knows what the House constituency will be after November?
Now here we are in mid-July. Maloney’s letter went out over six weeks ago, and the public has heard nothing. And Kushner is apparently vacationing in Morocco…
So, what’s going on?
This week, I heard whispers out of D.C. that Maloney’s investigation had been “stopped.” I wrote to the comms team at Oversight and asked if that was true. Communications Director Nelly Decker responded with the following:
Hi Vicky, from Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney: The investigation is still ongoing. As I made clear when I launched the investigation, the Committee is committed to following the facts wherever they lead to ensure that former executive branch officials do not improperly use their government position to their financial benefit.
We’ve been in communication with Affinity’s counsel following our letter request.
Surely, this is not good enough. Or, to Painter’s previous points, quick enough. Why is there no call for a vote on a subpoena?
Maloney was right to raise the issue with Kushner in the first place with her letter—but to not to follow it through with any punch? What of that?
I asked Painter for his opinion and here’s what he said:
I think they're picking their battles and they don't want to have to go to the full House of Representatives to enforce the subpoena against Jared Kushner… [Kushner will, of course, fight back with executive privilege arguments.] So I think that the January 6th committee is probably getting priority in terms of subpoenas and executive branch officials in the Trump administration. And it just may be a political call that they're just not willing to push this. … And, yes, I think the public does deserve better.
So do I.
We shall see…