Saturday, April 10, 2021

Democrats probe Kushners’ $ 1 billion bailout deal for family-friendly skyscraper

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U.S. Congressional Democrats have launched an investigation into whether Jared Kushner’s desire to secure a billion dollar bailout for a family-owned skyscraper played a role in President Donald Trump’s decision to support a blockade of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia.

Lawmakers on the House Senate finance and foreign affairs committees on Wednesday sent a broad request for documents to Brookfield Asset Management, which counts the Qatar Investment Authority among its major backers and has signed a long-term lease on the tower of offices in 2018.

The deal followed frantic efforts by the Kushner family to raise enough money to meet a $ 1.2 billion mortgage payment on the tower, and coincided with a series of sharp turns in U.S. foreign policy to with regard to Qatar.

At the time, Mr. Kushner, presidential son-in-law and senior White House adviser, met Middle Eastern leaders outside traditional diplomatic channels and took on a high-profile role in shaping US foreign policy.

“While Brookfield has asserted that Qatari representatives were not involved in the 666 Fifth Avenue transaction,” wrote Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Joaquin Castro, “we remain concerned that the Qatari funds have ended up in a billion dollar bailout for a company directly linked to Jared Kushner ”.

They added, “Federal criminal conflict of interest laws applicable to senior White House officials extend not only to matters affecting their own financial interests, but those of their direct relatives as well.”

Among the areas of interest identified by congressional investigators is Brookfield’s decision to pay nearly a century of rent in advance when renting 666 Fifth Avenue in 2018, months ahead of the deadline. Kushner’s mortgage.

© Drew Angerer / Getty

At the time, the Canadian asset manager insisted that “no entity related to Qatar has any stake, investment or even knowledge of this potential transaction.”

But lawmakers cited a Financial Times survey released earlier this year, which revealed that the payment, in excess of $ 1 billion, came from a vehicle controlled by Brookfield Property Partners (BPY), an investment trust that sold $ 1.8 billion of preferred shares to the QIA sovereign fund.

“It would give QIA ‘significant influence’. . . and allow it “to receive confidential information that other investors never see,” “the lawmakers wrote, citing the FT report. Brookfield said Doha never exercised its rights to access information or appoint a director to BPY’s board of directors.

Brookfield’s deal with Mr Kushner’s family came at a time when the Trump administration wavered between support for Qatar and criticism of the emirate for its alleged support for terrorists, creating a precarious position for an ally traditional American which was then under the economic blockade of its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

Rex Tillerson, then Secretary of State to Mr. Trump, urged the Saudi government to drop the blockade soon after it was imposed in 2017, protesting the humanitarian consequences and potential damage to American interests. It was quickly undermined by Mr. Trump, who tweeted approval of the Saudi action the same afternoon. But a year later, shortly before the Brookfield deal went public, the president reversed course, appearing to withdraw support for the blockade.

In a separate letter to a senior White House lawyer, Messrs. Wyden and Castro have requested to see any ethical advice given to Mr Kushner regarding his work on Middle East politics.

They wrote: “The stunning reversal of US policy toward Qatar raises serious questions about the role Jared Kushner – and his family’s financial interests – may have played in influencing US foreign policy regarding the blockade.”

Brookfield, Kushner Companies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.

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