I’m trying to remember what it was I used to write about before Trump became president. Anyone?
Today The Intercept reported that it appears Jared Kushner arranged to punish Qatar for not giving him a loan.
THE REAL ESTATEÂ firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatarâ€™s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the companyâ€™s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushnerâ€™s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance MinisterÂ Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushnersâ€™Â signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.
I’m starting to think the Book of Revelations really is about the Trump Administration. If you need background on the 666 Fifth Avenue property, see Kushner Money Blues. The bottom line is that Kushner needs a massive amount of financing for a white elephant property with massive mortgage coming due in less than a year, and if he doesn’t get the money, the family fortune is pretty much ruined.
The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later byÂ a Middle Eastern diplomatic rowÂ in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatarâ€™s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushnerâ€™s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time,Â subsequently underminedÂ efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.
That really doesn’t look good.
The Gulf crisis involving Qatar and its neighbors will likely be Kushnerâ€™s defining foreign policy legacy. The crisis followed a May visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Kushner and President Donald Trump, who subsequentlyÂ took credit forÂ Saudi Arabia and its alliesâ€™ efforts against Qatar. The fallout has reshaped geopolitical alliances in the region, splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council and pushing Qatar, home to the Middle Eastâ€™s largest U.S. military base, closer to Turkey and Iran.
It was a totally boneheaded move that hurt U.S. interests in the region, in other words. Of course, it’s possibleÂ this was more about Trump and Kushner just being ignorant and scammed by the Saudis, not …. oh, wait ...
Special counselÂ Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s effortsÂ to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.
As part of the scrutiny of Kushner’s discussions with Turks, federal investigators have reached out to Turkish nationals for information on Kushner through the FBI’s legal attache office in Ankara, according to two people familiar with the matter. Separately, Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, these people said.
The office space that the Kushners retained is worth less than its $1.2 billion mortgage â€” which is due early in 2019. If their company canâ€™t find some new scheme for refinancing and redeveloping the property by then, Kushner will have cost his family a fortune.
And Jared really doesnâ€™t want that to happen. In the months between his father-in-lawâ€™s election and inauguration, Kushner divided his time between organizing the transition, and seeking capital from (suddenly quite interested) investors aligned with foreign governments: During that period, Kushner attempt to secure a $400 million loan from the Chinese insurance firm Anbang, and a $500 million one from former Qatari prime minister and billionaire investor Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, also known as â€œHBJ.â€ Anbang pulled out once the deal attracted critical media scrutiny, and HBJ jumped ship when the Kushners failed to find a second major source of capital.
In those same weeks, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Kremlin-affiliated Vnesheconombank. The senior White House adviser has insisted that this meeting was strictly political; Gorkov maintains it was strictly business.
And here’s the even more juicy bit …
All of these interactions are currentlyÂ being scrutinizedÂ by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
They have also, apparently, been studied by top government officials in the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico â€” all of whom have privately discussed strategies for exploiting Jared Kushnerâ€™s business interests for geopolitical gain, according to a report from theÂ WashingtonÂ PostÂ on Wednesday.
And if Americaâ€™s allies and adversaries are looking for further (circumstantial) evidence that U.S. foreign policy might be for sale, the New YorkÂ TimesÂ provided some this week, when it revealed that Kushnerâ€™s family company hadÂ won $500 million in financingÂ last year from a pair of American firms right after their top executives had White House meetings with one Jared Kushner.
But, wait, there’s more. Yesterday I wrote about a big loan Kushner got from a company calledÂ Apollo Global Management. Today, the Associated Press has an update:
The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushnerâ€™s family real estate firm a $180 million loan.
While thereâ€™s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agencyâ€™s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Tru
â€œI suppose the best case for Kushner is that this looks absolutely terrible,â€ said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. â€œWithout presuming that there is any kind of quid pro quo … there are a lot of ways that the fact of Apolloâ€™s engagement with Kushner and the Kushner businesses in a public and private context might cast a shadow over what the SEC is doing and influence consciously or unconsciously how the agency acted.â€
Or, more likely, we’re looking at an old-fashioned quid pro quo.
It’s been said of the Trump White House that it has reminded everyone why there are rules. But one of the saddest and most pathetic things I’ve read this week is in this paragraph:
Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the presidentâ€™s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.
Trump doesn’t have the guts to tell his daughter and son-in-law that maybe it’s time for them to go, so he’s making John Kelly be the bad guy?
See alsoÂ â€˜Jared has fadedâ€™: Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished in the Washington Post.