I actual had thought that I knew what I would be writing about in this post as I headed to mork yesterday morning. But then numerous things happened throughout the day. Trump made statements that likely gave the NRA a stroke, Hope Hicks resigned as White House communications director after admitted she had told "white lies" for Trump, Walmart has stated it will not sell rifles to those under age 21, and then the bombshell that Jared "Prince Jared" Kushner's companies received hundreds of millions of loans following Kushner's meetings with individuals and businesses in his capacity as a senior White House official. So much for Der Trumpenführer's claims that his family members have not benefited from his occupancy of the the White House. And this after reports that four (4) different foreign countries viewed Kushner as particularly vulnerable to manipulation - think bribes and/or blackmail - which is why he was unable to get top secret security clearance. Here are excerpts from the Washington Post on Kushner's vulnerability:
Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.
It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.
And that was before today's revelations about the unusual loans made to Kushner companies in the wake of meetings at the White House. Here are highlights from the breaking news piece in the New York Times:
Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House. Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.
The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.
Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.
It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.
There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say government ethics experts.
“This is exactly why senior government officials, for as long back as I have any experience, don’t maintain any active outside business interests,” said Don Fox, the former acting director of the Office of Government Ethics during the Obama administration and, before that, a lawyer for the Air Force and Navy during Republican and Democratic administrations. “The appearance of conflicts of interest is simply too great.”
The White House referred questions to Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who did not dispute that the meetings between Mr. Kushner and the executives took place. This blurring of lines is now a potential liability for Mr. Kushner, who recently lost his top-secret security clearance amid worries from some United States officials that foreign governments might try to gain influence with the White House by doing business with Mr. Kushner.
Investigators working for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election, have asked questions about Mr. Kushner’s interactions with potential investors from overseas, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Kushner’s firm has sought investments from the Chinese insurer Anbang and from the former prime minister of Qatar.
Mr. Kushner resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies when he joined the White House last January, and he sold a small portion of his stake in the company to a trust controlled by his mother.
But he retained the vast majority of his interest in Kushner Companies. His real estate holdings and other investments are worth as much as $761 million, according to government ethics filings. They are likely worth much more, because that estimate has his firm’s debt subtracted from the value of his holdings.
Public filings show that Mr. Kushner still owns part of the company that received the Apollo loan. The loan was used to refinance a Chicago skyscraper that is the Midwest headquarters for AT&T. Mr. Kushner also still holds a stake in the entity that owns the Brooklyn buildings and received the loan from Citigroup. Mr. Fox, the ethics expert, said Mr. Kushner risked violating the regulations in his meetings with Citigroup and Apollo executives. All of the executives who met with Mr. Kushner have lots to gain or lose in Washington.
Apollo has sought ways to benefit from the White House’s possible infrastructure plan. And its executives, including Mr. Harris, had tens of millions of dollars personally at stake in the tax overhaul that was making its way through Washington last year.
Citigroup, one of the country’s largest banks, is heavily regulated by federal agencies and, like other financial companies, is trying to get the government to relax its oversight of the industry.
Shortly after Kushner Companies received the loan from Apollo, the private equity firm emerged as a beneficiary of the tax cut package that the White House championed. Mr. Trump backed down from his earlier pledge to close a loophole that permits private equity managers to pay taxes on the bulk of their income at rates that are roughly half of ordinary income tax rates. The tax law left the loophole largely intact.
I suspect that Prince Jared ma not be sleeping very well at the moment.