White House attorneys are conducting an internal probe of two loans totaling over $500 million to Jared Kushner's family business from Citigroup and Apollo Global Management LLC.
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) revealed the internal West Wing probe into whether the loans violated criminal or ethical statutes, in a letter to Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who sits on the House Oversight Committee.
The Office of Government Ethics told a Democratic lawmaker in the letter that the White House is probing whether a $184 million loan from the real-estate arm of Apollo Global Management LLC and a $325 million loan from Citigroup Inc. may have run afoul of the rules and laws governing the conduct of federal employees.
Both loans went to the Kushner Cos., the private real-estate company founded by Mr. Kushner’s father and run by members of his family. Mr. Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and serves in a senior position in the White House, met with top executives of both Citi and Apollo before each loan was disbursed, the New York Times reported last month. -Wall St. Journal
“I have discussed this matter with the White House Counsel’s Office in order to ensure that they have begun the process of ascertaining the facts necessary to determine whether any law or regulation has been violated,” wrote the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, David Apol. “During that discussion, the White House informed me that they had already begun this process.”
Rep. Krishnamoorthi requested that the OGE render an opinion over ethical questions in connection to Jared Kushner meeting with executives at a time in which both financial institutions provided backing to the Kushner family.
The transactions “raise serious ethical questions that need to be investigated,” Mr. Krishnamoorthi said in his letter to OGE, asking: “Do the above actions by Mr. Kushner constitute a breach of his ethical obligations to the American people?”
Citigroup responded to the inquiry last week - telling lawmakers that the loan was "completely appropriate," and that Citi had been exploring the lending facility in late 2016 prior to CEO Michael Corbat and Jared Kushner's March 3, 2017 meeting at the White House. The $325 million mortgage for a Brooklyn property owned by Kushner Co. and two partner firms closed on March 31.
Citi noted in their letter responding to Sen. Elizabeth Warren's request (D-MA) that "the Kushner family has been a client of Citi for decades."
The Kushner Co. also disclosed another $200 million Citigroup loan for a Jersey City, N.J. property called Trump Bay Street.
Apollo Global Management has yet to comment.
Jared Kushner had been running his family's Real Estate empire prior to the 2016 election - after which he resigned from the company, sold his personal stake in various projects and moved assets to family members and others. Kushner does, however, retain a stake in several Kushner properties - including those which received the $500 million in loans.
Meanwhile, the White House probe comes as the company is being investigated by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office and the SEC over a visa program known as EB-5.
What is EB-5 visa exactly? Wikipedia explains that the EB-5 visa provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who can invest from $500,000 to one million dollars in a "new commercial enterprise" in the United States. The program has been criticized as akin to “U.S. citizenship for sale,” and it has come under scrutiny after a series of fraud and scandals.
As Mike Krieger from the Liberty Blitzkrieg blog noted last May, The Kushner Companies have been taking advantage of this program for years, and continue to do so despite Donald Trump being the current U.S. President.
As reported by The Washington Post:
Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives from the Kushner family business urged Chinese citizens gathered at a Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help themsecure what’s known as an investor visa.
The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”
And the highlight of the afternoon was Meyer, a principal for the company, who was introduced in promotional materials as Jared’s sister.
Bloomberg News reported in March 2016 that the program has been used to the benefit both the Trump and Kushner family businesses. Before joining the White House, as chief executive of his family’s real estate company, Jared Kushner raised $50 million from Chinese EB-5 applicants for a Trump-branded apartment building in Jersey City, according to the report.
The OGE is tasked with helping executive branch officials avoid conflicts of interest, and their investigation will be of an advisory nature, rather than enforcement.
See the OGE's letter below: