666 Fifth Avenue: Yet Another Massive Conflict of Interest for the Trump White House

Cheriss May/NurPhoto via ZUMA

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The Intercept has a story about young Jared Kushner and his catastrophically bad 2007 purchase of a New York skyscraper. Kushner has basically lost his entire $500 million investment, and the only way to turn things around is to demolish the building and put up a bigger, more valuable one in its place. But that requires a huge amount of money, and it turns out that Kushner was hoping to get a big chunk of it from a Qatari zillionaire:

Not long before a major crisis ripped through the Middle East, pitting the United States and a bloc of Gulf countries against Qatar, Jared Kushner’s real estate company had unsuccessfully sought a critical half-billion-dollar investment from one of the richest and most influential men in the tiny nation, according to three well-placed sources with knowledge of the near transaction

Qatar is facing an ongoing blockade led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and joined by Egypt and Bahrain, which President Trump has taken credit for sparking. Kushner, meanwhile, has reportedly played a key behind-the-scenes role in hardening the U.S. posture toward the embattled nation.

….The revelation of the half-billion-dollar deal raises thorny and unprecedented ethical questions. If the deal is not entirely dead, that means Jared Kushner is, on the one hand, pushing to use the power of American diplomacy to pummel a small nation, while on the other, his firm is hoping to extract an extraordinary amount of capital from there for a failing investment. If, however, the deal is entirely dead, the pummeling may be seen as intimidating to other investors on the end of a Kushner Companies pitch.

There’s no way to know what’s really going on based solely on the information in the story. The problem is a very broad one: Jared Kushner runs a company that routinely needs to raise large sums of money, and one of the most common sources for large sums of money is foreign investors in places like China, the Middle East, and Russia. At the same time, Kushner is also a close advisor to the president of the United States, who routinely conducts foreign policy in places like China, the Middle East, and Russia. Conflicts of interest would be inevitable even if everyone involved were as pure as Caesar’s wife.

Is Trump helping out his son-in-law by putting pressure on Qatar? Is Trump being played by Kushner? Or are the blockade and the real estate deal completely unrelated? We have at least 42 months left of questions like this popping up constantly.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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