Told You So!
Following the Barrack trial, Jared Kushner's legal woes are just beginning
Jared Kushner at the White House on September 15, 2020. (Image used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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At the risk of sounding smug, what I told you would happen has come true. Testimony given at the trial of a Trump friend, the real estate financier Tom Barrack, has led to a far more potentially serious Congressional investigation—or re-investigation, to be precise—as to whether Jared Kushner’s foreign policy machinations in the Middle East were primarily driven by the financial dire straits his family business was in while he was in the White House. If there were hard evidence of that, it would be an extremely serious criminal offense. (There has been none found so far.)
The Washington Post reported last week that Sen. Ron Wyden (chair of the Senate Finance Committee) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform) have widened an investigation started in 2020 into Kushner’s possible conflicts, to see whether “Kushner’s financial conflict of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade and national security policies for his own financial gain.”
The Post had seen letters from Sen. Wyden and Rep. Maloney to the State and Defense departments asking for information “focus[ed]” on whether a major financial problem for the Kushner family was seemingly miraculously solved because of foreign policy flip-flopping by the Trump administration. (Obviously, I am paraphrasing the Post. They’d be unlikely to use the word “miraculously’ facetiously.)
What Wyden wants to know is whether the Trump Administration’s support of the Saudi and Emirati blockade of Qatar in the summer of 2017—something that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had testified at the Barrack trial that he was against, for very good national security reasons (a position shared by Defense Secretary James Mattis) but that Kushner (who, Tillerson testified, regularly end-ran the State Department) supported—had anything to do with the fact that Jared’s dad Charles Kushner met with the Qatari finance minister in April 2017, before the blockade, and had not struck a deal to save the Kushner Co.’s troubled trophy building, the aptly named 666 Fifth Avenue.
At the time, a loan was coming due for $1.4 billion, and it was clear that there was no domestic interest in it—and a foreign loan would come under intense scrutiny because of Jared’s White House job.
And yet—amazingly—in the nick of time, in early May 2018, just a couple of weeks or so after the Emir of Qatar visited the White House, it was reported that Brookfield Asset Management, a Canadian investment firm whose second-biggest outside shareholder at the time was the Qatari Investment Authority, were likely to do the Kushner bailout after all. Around the same time (the Post reported that the Congressional committees have email proof of the timings of the business negotiations), the Trump Administration suddenly dropped its support of the blockade of Qatar.
Sen. Wyden wants to know: Is there evidence showing the two are directly connected?
I reported on a lot of this in my 2019 book Kushner, Inc. I reported how Charles Kushner bragged to people in New York real estate that he had had the Qataris in his pocket all along and how Brookfield’s extraordinarily generous and unusual package (a $1.2 billion lease for 99 years where the rent was all paid upfront) didn’t just get them off the hook with the mortgage—it could well have saved the Kushners hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
I also reported that Brookfield insisted the deal was done purely for economic reasons (not a viewpoint I could find anyone else in the industry to support); a spokesperson for the firm even went so far at the time as to say the fund involved didn’t have Qatari money.
Except, as Sen. Wyden pointed out in 2020, it turned out that it did. But Brookfield stonewalled him and the 2020 investigation—and I thought it was stalled.
Worse, the latest narrative on the subject was Kushner’s. In his completely dreadful memoir, which I reviewed, he never once mentions the ticking time-bomb of his family business or how it was saved while he was in the White House.
But re-enter Rex Tillerson, Kushner’s one-time nemesis, who re-hashed in federal court, at the Barrack trial, how Jared Kushner’s back-channel foreign politicking was not “consistent” with his own messaging to foreign leaders.
In late October, after Tillerson testified, Sen. Wyden sent a rather stronger letter than the 2020 version, to Brookfield’s CEO Bruce Flatt asking for all documentation around the lease, the Qataris, the Kushners…all of it:
Criminal conflict of interest statutes for government employees are in place for a reason, and Brookfield must answer basic questions as to whether its Qatari investors were aware of the potential transaction with Kushner Companies before it was executed. Please note that the Senate Finance Committee will not accept any suggestions by Brookfield to direct its questions to other Congressional committees with separate investigations that do not address the questions posed by this inquiry.
So, what are the major takeaways here?
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