How Kushner's Finances Could Be Potential Conflicts Of Interest
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Jared Kushner is having a bad week. The presidential adviser's security clearance was downgraded. A trusted adviser left, and now a New York Times report raises questions about his financial dealings. The Times reports that Kushner's family business received hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from two major companies after their representatives met with Kushner at the White House.
WNYC's Andrea Bernstein co-hosts Trump, Inc., a podcast from WNYC and ProPublica. She reports on the complicated financial dealings of many in the Trump White House, including the president's son-in-law. Hi, Andrea.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Give us a little more information about these questionable loans. Who lent the Kushner companies the money, and what were they for?
BERNSTEIN: So what The New York Times is reporting is that the Kushner companies got two very large loans for buildings that it has in Brooklyn and Chicago. One loan was for 184 million. One was for 325 million. These loans were made after Kushner in his role as a White House adviser met with representatives from the companies. And the first loan, the $184 million one, came from Apollo Global Management. It was triple the size of Apollo's normal property loan.
SHAPIRO: Now, Kushner has said that he's divested himself from being involved in the family business, so what are the conflicts of interest here?
BERNSTEIN: Right. So Jared Kushner's spokesman says he meets with hundreds of businesspeople in his White House role and has, quote, "taken no part of any business loans or projects having to do with his company since he joined the administration." And a Kushner company spokesman says Jared Kushner is not involved in company's - in the company's loans discussions.
So let's assume all of that is correct. We still have what ethics experts have described to us as a potential conflict because we just don't know all the psychological motivations that might be behind the loans. We don't know if someone in those companies thought the loans with Jared Kushner's company would cover - curry favor with the White House. We don't know if any public officials are making decisions based on private business transactions.
For our Trump, Inc. podcast, we've been looking at these conflicts. And what we keep hearing back is Donald Trump's business is so large and sprawling, as is Jared Kushner's. And they still have financial ties to their companies, so it's impossible to have the kind of clear ethical lines that these experts want to have when you have public policy and public money involved.
SHAPIRO: OK. I know you spent the day on, what (laughter) you've described as, a Kushner company tour of New York. What did that involve?
SHAPIRO: What did you see?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I thought it would be a good day to go look at the Kushner properties in Midtown Manhattan. And I looked at two really iconic locations. The first one is the former New York Times building in Times Square. It is a marquee property, but a whole bunch of the windows on the first floor retail space were covered in brown paper. There have been some tenant disputes. And another restaurant, the one owned by Guy Fieri, closed after it got some pretty bad reviews.
BERNSTEIN: The other building I went to was at 666 Fifth Ave., which is right near Rockefeller Center and just down the street from Trump Tower - also iconic. This building the Kushner companies bought for $1.8 billion just before the financial crisis, and they still have hundreds of millions of dollars of debt to pay off and no clear path that we know of to pay its mortgage before it comes due in a year.
SHAPIRO: Just briefly, Andrea, could all this debt be one of the reasons for Kushner's security clearance problems we've heard about this week?
BERNSTEIN: Maybe. The Washington Post reported that four foreign powers believe they could influence Jared Kushner by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in his business. They say there's no evidence that this happened. But again, it's the kind of situation that ethicists have been worried about - that Kushner businesses - Kushner's business ties raise concerns.
SHAPIRO: Andrea, thanks so much.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Andrea Bernstein co-hosts Trump, Inc., a podcast from WNYC and ProPublica.
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