and AGUSTIN ARMENDARIZ
Posted June 12, 2018 3:03 a.m. EDT
Even after they ascended to top White House positions, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner continued to benefit from an extraordinary number of investment deals carried out by the companies they once ran, ethics filings released Monday evening showed.
During their first year in government service, Trump and Kushner remained investors through various vehicles and trusts, which bought and sold as much as $147 million of real estate and other assets.
Ethics experts have warned that this continued activity could raise questions of possible conflicts of interest.
“We don’t have insight into who is buying and selling stuff, so we don’t know if it’s market value,” said Virginia Canter, the executive branch ethics counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and a White House associate counsel in the Obama and Clinton administrations.
“Who is financing these transactions?” Canter asked. “Is it some unknown LLC? How do we know it isn’t a sovereign wealth fund from Saudi Arabia or some other place?”
Their new ethics disclosures showed that the couple’s trusts and other investment vehicles took part in nearly 80 transactions during the year, buying or selling swaths of development property in New Jersey, commercial real estate in Manhattan, condominiums in Brooklyn, stakes in mutual funds and at least one hedge fund.
The couple’s real estate holdings and other investments were worth as much as $811 million, up from $761 million in 2016. Their total income from the various investments was between $82 million and $222 million, compared with a range of $89 million to $201 million in 2016.
The value of the assets owned by Kushner and Trump does not count the debt accumulated to purchase the properties. Kushner divested some of his Kushner Cos. assets by selling them to a trust controlled by his mother.
The White House released the ethics disclosures of numerous top officials late Monday, as the public was focused on President Donald Trump’s meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in Singapore.
Last month, the White House released Trump’s financial disclosure, revealing for the first time a repayment of more than $100,000 to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in 2017, raising questions about whether his filing a year earlier had improperly omitted the debt.
One asset Kushner did divest before joining the administration was his stake in his family firm’s flagship property at 666 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan. Last month, The New York Times reported that the company was in negotiations with Brookfield Asset Management for a significant equity infusion. Brookfield’s property arm is partly owned by the Qatar government.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Abbe Lowell, who is Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s ethics counsel, said, “Since joining the administration, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have complied with the rules and restrictions as set out by the Office of Government Ethics.”
Mirijanian added that they had not been involved in the various transactions that benefited them. “As stated on numerous occasions, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump removed themselves from their companies’ operations and investment decisions when they entered government service,” he said.
The biggest transactions disclosed Monday involved buying or selling real estate in New Jersey, Indiana and Pittsburgh. In September, a limited liability company called Quail Ridge purchased residential real estate in Plainsboro, New Jersey, for $5 million to $25 million, according to the report. Kushner entered into a note transaction with Bank of America for the same value range, holding it with other members of the limited liability company.
The ethics filing also disclosed income generated by Ivanka Trump. She earned $3.9 million from her stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which opened in the fall of 2016. That was roughly on pace with what she reported in the previous year, when her filing showed that the hotel had generated $2.4 million in income during its first eight months.
The hotel, just steps from the White House, has prompted concerns from ethics experts, who worried that guests may be trying to curry favor with the president by staying there.
Ivanka Trump’s financial disclosures also show that she earned more than $5 million from the entity that controls her brand, and about $2 million in severance from the Trump Organization. She has resigned from her leadership roles at her fashion business and her family’s real estate company since her father became president.
Ivanka Trump also earned $289,300 as an advance for her book “Women Who Work.” She donated the money to the Ivanka M. Trump Charitable Fund, a “donor-advised fund” dedicated to organizations that focus on women and girls, according to the filing.
The filing also disclosed a few interests that Kushner had divested but inadvertently failed to report previously, including Vegas Seven, a Las Vegas website, as well as a stake in Brooklyn Beer.