POLITICS

Kushner Firm's Reported $90 Million In Secret Foreign Investments Riles Ethics Experts

The chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush called Kushner a "national security risk" who should never have been granted security clearance.

Alarmed ethics experts are weighing in following a bombshell report in The Guardian Monday that $90 million in secret foreign investments have poured into an offshore account for a real estate company founded and still partly owned by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

At least $1 million is from Saudi Arabia, sources have told The Guardian.

The money for the company, Cadre, has been deposited since 2017 via a Goldman Sachs financial vehicle in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guards corporate secrets, The Guardian reports.

In response to the revelations, Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, called Kushner a “national security risk,” saying that he should never have been granted security clearance. Donald Trump overruled U.S. intelligence and White House officials’ recommendations against granting Kushner top security clearance because of concerns about his foreign business entanglements.

Former Trump and Obama administration ethics chief Walter Shaub responded on Twitter to the report by calling again for the release of Kushner’s mysterious federal ethics agreement — if it in fact exists.

Constitutional law expert and Harvard professor Laurence Tribe told Salon that Kushner’s apparent conflicts of interest have “grown more distressing with time.” 

Tribe called Kushner a “scion of a family, whose wealth is intertwined with Jared’s many roles in the Trump administration, roles that have put him virtually in bed with, among other bloody despots, [the] Saudi crown prince.”

Kushner reduced his stake in Cadre to less than 25% after joining his father-in-law’s administration, but he is still an owner and his share of Cadre is worth up to $50 million, according to his financial disclosure statements. His initial statements failed to mention Cadre, but were later amended to reveal his holdings.

The foreign millions poured into the account even as Kushner continued to negotiate issues with various senior officials from some of the same nations that could have been the source of investments to Cadre.

The Guardian report exposes exactly the kind of relationship and conflict-of-interest risk that ethics experts have warned against after Trump administration officials refused to divest from companies. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint about Kushner’s stake in Cadre two years ago after he failed to disclose his holdings. CREW argued then that Cadre’s “opaque structure” was a tool to hide financial relationships.

Cadre was founded in 2014 by Kushner, his brother Joshua and a friend who previously worked for Goldman Sachs. The company operates from a Manhattan building owned by the Kushner family real estate corporation, according to The Guardian. Part of the operation is a real estate investment fund — worth more than half a billion dollars — used to buy U.S. properties. The value of the fund has increased fivefold since 2017 when Kushner joined the Trump administration, according to the newspaper.

One of Kushner’s more unnerving positive relationships during his time as a White House envoy is with wealthy Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who American intelligence officers determined ordered the vicious murder last year of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite the murder and other extensive human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration has decided to share nuclear power technology with the Saudis and plans to sell billions of dollars in weapons to the country. The chummy link between the two administrations has raised suspicions about financial ties.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman told The Guardian that Cadre has no access to information about the Goldman Sachs clients “who have invested in these vehicles,” indicating that Kushner would not know who was funding his company. Presumably, however, a Cadre owner could encourage people to invest.

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