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Who is Jared Kushner

Who is Jared Kushner

“They were careless people…”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Remember the Bluth family from the TV series Arrested Development? Imagine them without a Michael. That seems to be a pretty good description of the Kushners.

Jared Kushner is Donald Trump’s son-in-law, husband of Ivanka. As chaos has enveloped the administration, Trump has resorted to the age-old cosa nostra strategy of centering operations around family. In a criminal organization, family tend be the only people you can trust, because they are the only people complicit enough to be reliably loyal. In that climate Kushner has emerged as one of the last people Trump trusts, the last advisor he won’t betray.

Last week intelligence sources leaked some shocking information on Kushner’s collaboration with the Russians. Kushner had contacts with Russian government figures that he declined to share in his security clearance disclosures. In a normal, functioning democracy, that would be enough to get him fired from his position, banned from future federal work, and subjected to prosecution. That won’t happen, thanks to protection from Congressional Republicans. But it gets worse.

The same sources leaked some of the contents of Kushner’s Russian communications. Kushner asked the Russian Ambassador for access to the Russians’ secure communications infrastructure. He requested a level of insider cooperation not even a Russian intelligence asset would be granted, something our closest allies would not have given him. He wanted a way to communicate with sources in an enemy regime that could not be accountable to anyone in the US government.

This request was sufficiently bizarre to surprise the Ambassador. As far as we know, his request was rejected. While issuing the usual blanket denials, Trump also rolled out proxies to defend Kushner’s move, basically confirming its substance.

Why would Jared Kushner want, much less ask for, such an awkward resource from the Russians? As with everything this administration does, it is important to consider their unusual interests. Trumplandia recognizes only two forms of currency, money and ego. These people seem detached, even clueless, about legislation and policy because they don’t care. Policy is meaningless. They have no goals other than the promotion of the family’s interests and the protection of their image. The White House is just one more asset in a vanity real estate portfolio.

Why do Russian connections figure so highly into those interests? Foreign sources of capital are key to the family’s business dealings. Their secrecy prevents us from determining how much of their capital comes from Russia (or China or elsewhere). There are, however, clues from the family history.

The Kushners are New Jersey real estate developers. Jared’s grandfather, an immigrant, built the family business in the 50’s and 60’s. Jared’s father, Charles, built his portion of the inherited business into a substantial force by the 90’s, with vast holdings of apartments and other developments. Looking for something more prestigious, he started leveraging political contacts to make marquis deals. Adopting the New Jersey Method, he became a major Democratic donor, establishing the political (and other) connections necessary to broker larger transactions.

Young Jared was by all accounts a mediocre student. His admission to Harvard’s business school is…um, mysterious. His father’s carefully timed and structured $2.5m donation to the school probably had nothing to do with it.

The New Jersey Method for building rentier wealth often attracts the attention of ambitious prosecutors. But as the Trumps have learned, careful use of money, accountants and political contacts usually guarantees immunity. Charles Kushner misplayed his hand. While under investigation by a federal prosecutor named Chris Christie in 2004, he discovered that his brother in law had agreed to testify. Charles hired a prostitute to compromise his brother in law, using video of the incident in a failed blackmail effort. That was the incident that broke the case open. He went to federal prison for 14 months.

Returning from prison he went back into the family business, joined by his son. This is where it becomes important to distinguish real estate development from other forms of business. Donald Trump and Jared Kushner are not “businessmen” like Bill Gates or Mark Cuban. They never created anything. They never invented anything. Only on the rarest occasions have they built anything. All their conventional business ventures fail, because they suck at commerce. They have no original ideas. They sponsor no innovation. They create no value. They are rentiers.

Real estate development in the Trump/Kushner model starts with lots of money. There is a big asterisk on that “lots of money,” because it is always based on reputation and flash, not provable assets (which tend to be heavily leveraged and obscured from full financial disclosure). Leveraging that reputed “lots of money” as a form of imputed collateral, they recruit investors to fund the purchase an existing asset. Sometimes you try to flip that asset for a profit, since there is little money to be made from continuing business operations on most of these properties. It is okay to lose money on these “flip” deals, as long as you don’t lose your own money. A modest capital loss using these methods can often still yield profits for the right investors with the right positioning on the deal.

In Trump’s case, sometimes the only asset he puts in play is his name, for which he earns a share of any profits on the building it mars. Since the Kushners lack that kind of cache, they need another hook.

Cash for living comes from existing sunk capital, like the acres and acres of slum properties they have inherited, properties they are running into the ground while extracting rents. Those properties pay the rent, so to speak, but once fully leveraged they don’t provide enough capital to fund more ambitious ventures.

Banks tend to be a little reluctant to lend hundreds of millions of dollars to characters with a history of bankruptcy or felony convictions. Formal stock and bond markets…well, you can’t be serious. Those channels are heavily regulated, requiring actual, honest forms of disclosure. The best sources of capital for real estate investments, which rarely produce high capital returns anyway, would be people who aren’t looking for big returns on their investments – people who have non-business interests at stake.

If you have accumulated a small fortune in your home currency through shady means you need a way to convert those gains into some legitimate form of wealth, preferably denominated in US dollars or Euros. A real estate investment might be ideal, even if the building itself is of marginal value and you never intend to darken its doors. These investors are not primarily concerned about profit. They are looking for discretion and convertibility. This business model is sometimes crudely described as “money laundering,” though if done carefully it is usually legal.

Unfortunately, a conventional western real estate investment with an ordinary REIT (real estate investment trust) comes with…problematic…disclosure requests. To attract the right investors, you need a very special business model, one built around discretion.

Again, since there have been few financial disclosures from the Trumps or the Kushners, details are limited. We do, however, have this gem. An investigative reporter filmed a Kushner family sales pitch in China (before being caught and thrown out). In it a Kushner family business is promoting US visas for investments in their properties. Through one disclosure we know that Jared has raised $50m through a visa-selling mechanism, whereby Chinese investors can buy access to US immigration.

The visa for investment program is potentially legal, depending on how you do it. Not everyone plays by the rules. In April the FBI raided the offices of another similar company in the visa for investment racket.

Want to find investors who won’t ask questions about your business practices or financial viability? Go to countries where there are lots of rich people looking for ways to either escape, or to convert their assets. Places like, you know…China, Russia, the Middle East, etc.

It appears that the most pressing issue facing the Kushners right now is a lousy deal they made right before the financial crisis in 2008. Their splashy purchase of the luxury tower at 666 Park Avenue was supposed to mark Charles’ return to “legitimate” commerce. Instead it has been a constant headache and a looming disaster. Today, the total value of the office space may be less than the mortgage.

It looked for a while as though the family’s new notoriety might deliver a solution. This spring they were on the edge of a deal to dump the property, selling off to the politically-connected Chinese holding company, Anbang, for a ridiculous and commercially unjustifiable profit. It would have come at a time when legitimate loan payments are threatening to swamp them. In other words, this whole stupid project to put Donald in the White House was about to pay off. Then Congressional Democrats started asking questions. Meanwhile God knows what was happening in diplomatic and intelligence back channels. The Chinese pulled out. Now the fate of the project (and the family’s fortune) remains clouded and debt payments are climbing.

Why does Jared Kushner need a secure means of communicating with parties in Russia, free from US government oversight? The prevailing explanation is that he wanted a back-channel to work on a solution in Syria. Look how much time and energy the Trump administration has invested in Syria. Does it look like anyone in the White House cares? Something else explains such a wildly intense interest in such an outlandish request.

In white collar crime, it’s always the cover-up that sends people to prison. Kushner, of all people, should understand that.


      1. I’ve heard many interviews of David Frum. From the get-go, the caveat in the discussion stipulated that the only default to Trump who would be acceptable was Pence – a less horrible alternative but still horrible. Narcissism or zealotry? Frankly, the latter is of great concern to me. Anyone who lives in Texas who has paid close attention to LT Governor Dan Patrick clearly understands how dangerous religious extremism cloaked as political piety can be in governance.

        Frum gave very little hope for impeachment or even an obstruction of justice charge against Trump. I follow Frum through my Atlantic subscription so I didn’t hear any new ideas of statements from him. Otherwise, Sam Harris was a thoughtful interviewer.

      2. Mime – I don’t think I can disagree with a single word of your comment. As you say, Frum’s central point was that the alternative to Trump is the theocrat Pence. Finding anything good in those two options is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.

      3. There was a time when religious extremism may have been considered “useful” – however, I’ll stick with my choice of “dangerous”. After reading the legislation he crafted and watching how he pushed it through the Lege, then listening to him justify his legislative agenda as a mighty fight for religious purity, and get way too much of what he wanted, I don’t want to underestimate the man even if I disagree with him. There’s not much positive I can say about Patrick except that he obfuscates truth under a mantle of religion and it is always self-serving. As you and I both know, too many people believe the two are inseparable.

      4. Useful for his purposes, dangerous for the rest of us (-;

        I didn’t comment on Frum’s closing remarks in which he acknowledged a positive from Trump’s ascendancy…the tremendous growth in political activism. I can affirm this from my own observations, particularly so with women. They are quite clear as to their views and for many, becoming engaged in the political process for the first time. That’s a positive even if it is an outgrowth from the negatives of Trump’s tenure. Let us hope that when 2018 and 2020 roll around, their enthusiasm will translate into votes.

  1. Completely off topic; just excited, that California passed a Universal Health Care Law. It has many hurdles before becoming law so no imminent change but it is exciting to see the world’s 6th largest economy take this step and launch an experiment here in the US where all citizens via tax repurposing provide all its citizens with comprehensive health care. The law also allows negotiation on drug pricing, we will see if that survives the process.

    There has been so little evidence of late of government attempting to do something positive for its citizens I thought it worth sharing.

  2. While we’re talking about gerrymandering, something interesting in Texas is happening that, if the chips fall just right, could endanger several Republican incumbents and ease Democrats’ path to taking control of the House.

    Long story short, a three-panel of judges ruled back in March that Texas lawmakers drew congressional districts that discriminated against Latinos and African-Americans, and all parties are coming back for a five-day court session in July to determine the state’s next set of maps.

    That said, after the Supreme Court’s modest bombshell ruling regarding N. Carolina districts (the one that essentially conflated minority status with party status), those same Texas judges asked the Texas legislature if it could confer a special session to redraw their congressional lines. Problem with that is is that even Republicans openly questioned whether any map they drew would actually hold up in court.

    Regardless, several Republicans have openly asked Gov. Abbott to call a special session and draw new lines so that they can at least have a say. Better to lose two or three seats to the Democrats than have a court drawn map that puts them at risk of losing upwards of five or six, right?

    Yeah, Gov. Abbott ain’t buying that. So far the response has been a big fat “NO”.

    Regardless, time is running out and ’18 is inching closer and closer, and in the race for the House, where even a handful of seats could decide the outcome, Texas’ decision could be deciding.

    1. From where I sit and what I read in TX, the reason for the delay is because ………… they feel the current map is better than anything the judges can draw AND that if they delay long enough, anything the judges draw won’t have time to be implemented before mid-terms….the old “stall” game.

      1. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Everyone’s meeting back in July to discuss the new maps, so the judges asking the legislature was just to give them a chance to have their input considered. Any actual stalling would have to depend on the legislature itself having the say-so on what goes forward or not. That is not the case, hence Republican hand-wringing over what the court may decide to do next.

    1. Sadly, I’m well aware of Operation RedMap. The best counter Dems had to that was through Howard Dean’s “Fifty State Initiative”, and the DNC canned him. Don’t get me started on that brilliance.

      The key quote in the piece is this: “the GOP has basically used this technology to erect a firewall against the popular will.” Daley doesn’t offer any hope for 2018 but it’s safe to say that the wild card in his projections is Trump. It’s also important to recognize that the Republicans win either way – with Trump or without him. They are entrenched and it’s going to be defense for some time. That’s discouraging for those of us who oppose the conservative agenda but we better get a grip because it’s going to be a long, hard slog. The best we can do is re-trench, go local in our efforts and re-build from the ground up. That, however, takes time, and it takes organization – organization which is going to have to come from somewhere other than the Democratic National Committee.

      1. Completely agree. The D’s have to start to focus on the local races, organizations and to build a 50 state organization as Dean did. Sadly, ever since Dean left the D’s have focused their time, money and organizational effort on the seats that the national party considers winnable. We saw that in KS and MT this year.

        Though I am not sure, I believe Rahm Emanuel was the genius who came up with that idea. He could also be the genius who ignored REDMAP. I’d have to do more research to verify that.

        The Republican redistricting map even cost the D’s in Washington State, where a bi-partisan commission develops the maps in accordance with defined criteria. First of all the D’s hoped to develop a majority minority congressional seat, but it was not a priority. The R’s on the commission developed a plan that narrowly achieved that goal, but at the cost of tilting other districts Red. When the D’s plan and the R’s plan were voted on, one of the D commissioners voted for the R plan, because of the majority-minority district. The D’s did not have a 2/3 majority in the legislature to override the selection, so the R plan was enacted.

        The net result of this moderate gerrymander was that the D’s held on at the federal level, because the R’s ran a far right, tea-party candidate for the congressional seat that was primarily targeted for flipping by the R’s. However at the state level the House majority was severely reduced, the R’s were able to marginally take control of the Senate and complete control in the next election cycle. We’ve had legislative gridlock ever since. In November, hopefully the D’s will take control of the Senate again.

        Now you know why I am completely opposed to bipartisan redistricting commissions.

  3. I’ve been pretty much ignoring the polls since last November, but I will be interested to see what effect, if any, the last two weeks has on 45’s popularity.

    Quite frankly my social media bubble swears up down and leftward that the last two weeks are deepening his unpopularity but I don’t see that being reflected in the overall media narrative, including the critical media.

    He’s pushed around foreign heads of state, sold billions of dollars of arms to the Middle East and undone years (decades) of work with a single announcement that goes against the popular opinion of not only the majority of Americans but the majority of voters, all of the most valuable companies, most of the most wealthy people, and every single country except Nicaragua and Syria. By the accounts of my Facebook feed, he’s flirting with getting hung in the Rose Garden.

    Except his popularity and viability for re-election has fuckall to do with any of that. His popularity is a matter of which of the narrow marginal swing between right wing nut jobs and people blown out of perspective by media fatigue of three decades of dialectical poison from the right and self-immolating both-sidism from the left either ‘really like’ or ‘somewhat like’ the job he’s doing. Neither if these groups give a fuck about glowing ball orbs in Saudi Arabia, Montenegro’s head of state, or a worldwide soft promise to reign in invisible odorless particulates fussy city folk go apeshit over every time it snows too late or shines too early.

    For that matter, the last two weeks are the first time he’s lived up to promises in more concrete ways for groups beyond the evangelicals pleased he’s rolling back decades of women are people legislation.

    So what I am saying here is, his Presidency as described by his candidacy has finally started after activists and Democrats in Congress successfully delayed his first four months of work. Now that his statements are becoming realized, let’s see if it moves polls.

    If his polls rise, then we know that Russia just ain’t gonna matter to Congress anytime soon. If they keep generally low but not wildly changed, it’s on to the next news cycle.

    But if they drop, especially precipitously, then interesting things might start happening.

    That said the Outlook doesn’t look good. Republican leaders in Congress and right wing media are all flowers and sunshine over this fucking bullshit. That leads me to conclude that if anyone left of center thinks the last couple weeks are going to solidify their arguments for 2018, they shouldn’t set their hopes too high.

    What misery it is to live in a country beholden to a a few hundred thousand assholes in a handful of fucking swing states. The existential survival of the human race shouldn’t be risked on the backs of a few disenchanted men.

      1. I am encouraged by the grassroots resistance movement bringing in lots of new people into political awareness and activism. The DNC is seemingly impotent in using the opportunity in front of it to mobilize this mass of people (most of whom are women) into a cohesive political force. Whether that bodes well or poorly will depend upon voter turnout, but it’s a shame that there is so little leadership or capability at the national level. If it will be done…it will have to be done by each of us……….

      2. EJ

        If I were the DNC I’d be terrified. A mass of irate, newly-politicised voters all clamouring for immediate action is a terrifying thing in a democracy. The DNC has the dual responsibility of being the adults in the room whilst also trying to avoid getting trampled by their own supporters, and that’s a hard situation to be in.

  4. The Administration and Vnesheconombank give different reasons for the Kushner and Russian back channel request. The article in the Washington Post are followed up in length this evening on the Lawrence O’Donnell Show:

    One point I found interesting, regardless of the actual reason for the meeting it was held before Trump was sworn in…therefore not covered by executive privilege and vulnerable to RICO if it can be established that it was to lift sanctions in exchange for funding 666 Fifth Avenue. The Russians say the meeting was private business between the bank and a real estate developer… the administration say it was just another meeting regarding transition policy.

  5. I attempted to post this a few minutes ago, but have not been able to find it. Most likely it is somewhere. Regardless, it is somewhat off topic, but it relates to the climate change thread that has been discussed recently and ties in to my recent comment regarding California. It is the May 30 column by Froma Harrop – the link is:

    Basically Froma is stating that Trump regardless if he withdraws from the Paris Accord, will be unable to stop the 21st Century technologies that are emerging. Other entities will find means of working around him. That will include Europe, China and the forward thinking areas of the US including the left coast, the East Coast and other major Metro areas, such as Pittsburg, Chicago, Denver and several others.

    Unfortunately, the tragedy will be that of lost opportunities for the U.S. and increased catch-up costs later.

    Finally, she discusses some of the actions California is taking. This column is worth a read and gives a different perspective on what is actually happening in the US despite the gloomy news regarding Trump and his henchmen.

    1. It’s probably safe to assume here that those of us commenting on the Paris Accord have read it. What I find puzzling is, given the utter impotence of it, the complete lack of sanctions for violation of it, the inane bureaucratic doublespeak of it, let alone the projected impact it might have on CO2 emissions globally, I have to wonder why so many are so upset over the moron-in-chief pulling out of it. It is an action, like so many of his actions, devoid of any real and tangible result.

      It is absolutely true that developing technologies in many parts of the world, (perhaps most importantly in the US, ironically), hold our best hope of averting potential climatic catastrophe. I see about zero probability of any of these efforts being affected one whit by the actions of the man-child in DC, any more than that they were ‘inspired’ by the useless Paris Accord.

      1. Sanctions are less important to me than commitment to a common goal. There will be different ways of getting there and disappointments along the way, but surely we should try to find agreement where we can. To make a start. Or, do you buy into the argument that the Paris Accord is not a “good deal” for America?

      2. I’m sorry, but I seem to have missed the part of the Atlantic piece where anything concrete was to come of the treaty. Voluntary, self-imposed limits, and a bunch of happy horseshit was there, but that’s about it. But as I said, we’ve all read the treaty, right? And please – “commitment to a common goal” is the most important thing. Well, Koombayah. You could probably ask Putin if he is committed to world peace, and he’d say, “Konechno!”

      3. Ah, Fifty….here’s a piece you’ll likely find more agreeable with your position. Those who are concerned about the environment are probably too willing to accept good intentions with concrete commitments. I admit to that, while still believing that regardless “who” or “what” people believe is causing climate change, we are all better off if we can agree that there are things we can do to mitigate the problems. Personally, pulling the Clean Water Act was (to me) an egregious abuse of power. So, we may differ on that as well. Anyway – here’s the alternative “50ish” view.

      4. Mime! Thank you very much! That was an excellent article, start to finish.

        BTW, you were out for some time. I hope you were on vacation or something, and that you and yours are fine.

      5. Mary, I too had noticed that you weren’t on the site, and was worried that you had left for good. I am so sorry about your husband. –Anne

        PS I haven’t been around much either–overwhelmed by my job, but in a good way.

      6. Thank you, Anne. Your job sounds challenging which I hope is a good thing. It’s important to have purpose in one’s life and to understand how quickly things can change. Hope you get some time off this summer to re-charge for the fall.

      7. Thanks everyone for your expressions of support. All of us have lost persons who meant a lot to us and it is never easy. My husband and I had a good, long marriage (53 years). I am hoping to get to a happier place while missing my partner and best friend. He is deeply missed. I appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness.

      8. Fifty, it’s true that the Paris Accord is non binding. It isn’t called the Paris Climate Treaty for that reason. Sort of like wedding vows, they are not legally binding but most of us make them anyway.

      9. unarmed – Marriage is both a cultural as well as a civil institution. On the civil side, there are manifold rights and responsibilities that are *enforced* by society. In this regard, though the decision to enter into marriage is wholly voluntary, once wed, we find ourselves legally *bound* – constrained both financially and behaviorally. The Paris Accord has absolutely no analog to this. Hence my position on it.

    2. When I wrote this, it had no idea the Trump’s speech would include the statement that he was elected to represent Pittsburgh not Paris. I did know that Pittsburgh voted for Hillary, that it has shed its old steel, coal and fossil fuel roots and is now a forward thinking city developing 21st century technologies. Irony!!

    3. Let us hope Froma Harrop is right. That the smartest people will continue their push to address climate change any way possible –
      ignoring the federal government and pursuing self-interest that they can control. It’s still a damn shame that Trump backed out – even if everything Fifty said is true.

  6. More Kushner shenannigans, using an unfortunately legal loophole that allows “real estate gerrymandering”:

    At the risk of being repetitive, here is a solid gold issue for the Dems. Anybody want to take bets on whether this current regime is actually going to enact any reforms?

  7. Thanks for connecting the dots on this. I agree, I think a full accounting of the Trump and kushner investor list would likely include a lot of unsavory characters.

    I wonder though, why in the world would these people ever get involved in politics, knowing the level of scrutiny that public officials are subjected to? While Trump himself may feel invulnerable, Jared’s father went to prison. Didn’t Jared learn a lesson from that? Barring that, wouldn’t their consigliere sit them down and say “Jared, the last thing you want to do is invite pesky reporters into your business”.

    But if you’re right that the only thing they care about is ego and money, their poetic justice is coming: Donald is already a laughing stock among the people whose respect he really craves (the truly rich and powerful), and all this attention will scare off his shady investors bringing his leveraged mess of an empire to a grinding halt. Oh yeah. Prison would be a nice cherry on top, but hardly necessary to put them in their own personal hell…

    1. I do not think they actually have a consigliere who is really savvy with business law. I have not been much impressed with Trump’s personal attorney. He largely depends on bluffing and intimidation as Trump does and for that he has a very nice income. Regarding Kushner, as Chris outlined above, he desperately needs money to bail out 666 Park Avenue Western Banks will not help him for the several reasons outlined in Chris’ post. That money needs to come preferably from Russia so it can be laundered. China is always a possibility, but since it still needs to operate in the western financial system it is less likely. That probably explains why Anbang pulled out. The Middle East is also a possibility, but the same applies to them. With Trump being friendly to Russia, that would seem to be a perfect fit. They might have gotten away with but for that pesky Comey.

  8. Here’s some definition on Kushner:

    An investigation for The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, by Alec MacGillis, found that one major Kushner subsidiary, JK2 Westminster, had 548 cases on file against Maryland tenants. Hundreds of other cases have been filed there by individual Kushner apartment complexes.

    I think in my grandpa’s low German we’d call him a heizen shiner or maybe even a hoontz footz.

    1. Five days earlier, Warren had gone to court to fill out a handwritten motion saying she had proof that she was given permission to leave Cove Village in 2010 — she had finally managed to get a copy from the housing department. “Please give me the opportunity to plead my case,” she wrote. But she did not attach a copy of the form to her motion, not realizing it was necessary, so a judge denied it on Jan. 9, on the grounds that there was “no evidence submitted.”

      The garnishing started that month. Warren was in the midst of leaving her job, but JK2 Westminster garnished her bank account too. After her account was zeroed out, a loss of about $900, she borrowed money from her mother to buy food for her children and pay her bills. That February — five years after she left Cove Village — Warren returned to court, this time with the housing form in hand, asking the judge to halt garnishment. “I am a single mom of three and my bank account was wiped clean by the plaintiff,” she pleaded in another handwritten request. “I cannot take care of my kids when they snatch all of my money out of my account. I do not feel I owe this money. Please have mercy on my family and I.” She told me that when she called the law office representing JK2 Westminster that same day from the courthouse to discuss the case, one of the lawyers told her: “This is not going to go away. You will pay us.”

      Rich people always win.

      1. Bobo, the one silver lining we have here is that the free press is putting these disgusting, immoral, sleazy actions under noon-in-July level sunlight. Ms. Warren stepped up and spoke out, so I hope that leads to some justice for her, and snowballs to help others in her situation. This system needs major reform, and if the Dems in places like NY,NJ, MD, etc. are not running HARD with this cause, they are committing gross political malpractice. NJ is electing a new Governor this year, and here is free and copious red meat for the Dem base.

        There are fewer things lower than a rich man grabbing $ out of the pockets of the poor. Kushner and his pretty little wife need massive public shaming, followed by some criminal investigations.

      2. Finally the big guns in the national press are digging into the background of Trump and Kushner. Too bad they were so concentrated on the horse race stories, Trump’s antics and Hillary’s emails during the campaign. The nation would have been much better served if there had been some real in depth reporting during the campaign. Hopefully, better late than never.

  9. Chris, you are psychotic…I mean psychic! There has been a steady buzz here in NYC regarding 666 5th Avenue since 2008. Kushner Companies paid almost twice the FMV and everyone assumed a quick renovation and resale with the principals retaining a minority interest with the Kushner name on the building ala Trump. Instead the market crashed and an off the wall development plan to add 41 stories plunged this into a $30 million loss per year. Their initial interest only payment is due 2018 and no one thinks they have it now that Anbang is out.

    They need cash. I’ve read all these stories in NY Journal and the Times but your article succinctly links these stories into a cohesive scenario. There was no diplomatic reason for a white house appointee to create a back channel to Russia and no reason for the Russians to include the President of Vnesheconombank in those discussions about what “Syria”? That is no regular bank…only stakeholders are Putin and the Kremlin. Not to mention it was one of the first institutions to be included in Obama’s sanction list. Preet Bharara who upon being terminated by DOJ was hired by the NY State AG’s office and is an actor I believe we will see in the next act. NYS AG’s office kicked the tires of the Trump Foundation and a lot of his operating expenses and some revenue for Trump Industries fell out. Trump Foundation attempted to dissolve December 2016 but was prevented from doing so until the State completes their investigation ( These guys are all chutchzpah. They are the Bluth’s sans Michael….Gawd I hope Melania is a heavy martini drinker. I am a big Arrested Development fan.

    1. Firing Bharara was possibly the biggest mistake of the Trump administration. This man had time under his belt with the Russian investigation, is incredibly smart, and now has personal incentive through the NY AG office to work his investigative magic. It can’t happen soon enough.

  10. Something strange is happening and everyone needs to be aware of it. Trump looks to be amassing a propaganda army on his Twitter account by way of Twitter bots (for those who don’t know, they’re hacked/fake accounts that you can program to react however you choose). Currently, his account’s adding them at a rapid clip, about 100 a minute.

    How can we be sure of this? All you need to do is look up his most recent followers. Virtually all of them have never made a single tweet before, and they all follow roughly the same 20-30 people, a bare bones attempt to make them seem genuine. “Hey, I don’t just follow Trump! Look, I follow Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres too!”

    I don’t know what they’re up to specifically, but we can make a reasonable guess. If one could bolster their account with millions of bots that react however you wanted, you could trend whatever topic you want and quash actual people trying to fight back and overwhelm them until they decide to give up.

    Thankfully, people are already on the move, trying to alert Twitter and get these bots shut down. Stay tuned.

  11. According to the NY Times, The Kushners over paid for their current property by a mere 200%:

    “In a Trumpian move, he sold the family’s New Jersey apartment complexes and bought 666 Fifth Avenue for $1.8 billion, then the most ever paid for a Manhattan office building. He seems to have vastly overpaid. The Met-Life building sold at roughly the same time for $600 a square foot, according to reporting in The Times, but Kushner bought his building for $1,200 a square foot.”

  12. Saw this post on a FB site and it’s worth sharing:

    The Five Stages of Trumpism:
    (1) It’s a total lie, never happened, is fake news.
    (2) It happened but it’s not a big deal.
    (3) OK, it might be a big deal but it’s not illegal.
    (4) OK, it’s illegal but Hillary and Obama something, something so it’s OK.
    (5) Get over it, Libturd, you’re just a sore loser!

      1. While I share the disgust at Trump’s European trip, his decision to pull out of the Paris accord and his America First policy, I do have a contrarian thought that this might be beneficial for the relationship between Europe and America in the long run, once Trump is replaced by someone who is actually forward thinking.

        One the difficulties with the relationship with Europe is that it is not pulling its weight in international affairs, partly because the European Union is fragmented. It has been able to function that way because it is under the American Defense Shield. With America disengaging hopefully Europe will begin to engage. NATO was originally formed to keep the US in and Russia out. In the early days, the US had to assume to disproportionate role, but Europe could now start pulling a larger role. Merkel clearly wants that to be the case.

        Regarding pulling out of the Paris Accord, it was so ham handed and ridiculous that it is being panned universally by most of the world, and all forward thinking and thoughtful parties. As we’ve seen already three states have said they are going to proceed with their climate change plans and if anything accelerate them. If those three states are combined they will probably represent one of the largest economies in the world (I’m making a SWAG here but possibly 3rd or 4th). Much of the technology for the 21st Century is being developed in those states. Plus the US has already essentially met the 2020 Paris Accord goals and we cannot withdraw from the accord until 2020. Though we could withdraw from the UN Framework, within a year. So though the withdrawal is bad, I do not think it will be a disastrous as some think. Most of the impacts will be soft and that will hopefully tend to make Europe start pulling more of its own weight.

        The America First policy may have somewhat of a similar function.

        In the final analysis, I hope Europe will assume more of a unified and mature role in global affairs. If they are more forceful and assertive our relationship should ultimately improve. There has long been an undercurrent of resentment and feeling in the US that other nations, specifically Europe, are not pulling their weight. That undercurrent has come to the forefront with the America First policy.

        However, Putin of course will attempt to take advantage of this period of unrest. However, IMO, in the worst case, the US would fulfill its commitment under NATO. Putin does seem to know that he must be very careful and does not want to overtly tangle with the US. Historically, we have not been able to avoid European discord. That goes back to the pre-revolutionary period. The French-Indian war wa really a side-show to European conflict. Similarly, the War of 1812, was really caused by the Napoleonic Wars. Then there are of course WWI and WWII.

        All this means, that we must redouble our efforts towards the 2018 elections. I know I am being contrarian, but these thoughts in no way mean that I am not totally disgusted.

      2. I agree with you that the European nations stand to both benefit and suffer from the absence of American leadership. In a somewhat contrarian view of my own, I have always thought the idea of “American Exceptionalism” was BS. Further, I felt it was harmful not only to the responsibilities it required America to shoulder in order to secure its vaunted leadership role, but also that it weakened the sense of shared responsibility and encouraged growth of other emerging nations.

        History has recorded the rise and fall of many great nations, which have re-emerged in contemporary society in their own right. The size, wealth, and commitment of America in combination with an exceptional commitment of our country’s wealth to defense, has given America a prominent role in the world. These elements were bolstered by mass education, a free market driven by creative people who had fantastic opportunities to succeed, and an underlying democratic form of government that protected human rights while encouraging personal achievement. That, has changed, but so have conditions in the other emerging nations.

        Personally, I think world peace is best when there are many strong nations, so that responsibility for peace is shared. Even with all the respect that America used to have for its outsized presence in world affairs, there was always a resentment of how our country leveraged its power at the expense of other countries opportunities. This may always be the case but we have watched the countries in Europe live together peacefully (excepting Russia and the bad players in the middle east) . Trade is a concern vis a vis how Europe manages post-Brexit, but why should the United States of America get to call all the shots?

        I see and raise your contrarian statement, TMerritt!

  13. This is a good posting. It consolidates a considerable amount of information that has been lightly covered in the media. I can tell it required considerable research. Much of the initial rhetoric seemed to indicate the Jared and Ivanka might be OK because of their urbane qualities. However, we are slowly learning how corrupt they really are. This column contributes a great deal towards our understanding of both Trump and Kushner families and will be a good source as more information is revealed. Makes me think of The Godfather movie series.


    1. What’s nauseating is the rush by prominent Republicans and those in Trump’s staff (McMaster and Kelly – who “KNOW” better) to defend Kushner.

      At the very least, Kushner’s top security clearance should be pulled immediately, yet the news stated that just this morning, Trump included him in the Daily security briefing. Guess if you’re going to double down, do it with chutzpah, right?

      I am so disgusted with everyone and anyone involved in this. From Ryan, McConnell and so many others who are defending Trump and those he has brought on who are very questionable. One thing’s for damn sure, if I hear any of them talking about Hillary’s email server, I’m going to laugh my head off.

      1. While I’m sharing my disgust for all the players in this Trump/GOP brigade, I’ll add Kevin Brady, who announced in the Conroe Courier today that the tax plan he and Republicans are working on is going to be wonderful! He says Democrats are all wrong about it benefiting millionaires and billionaires, that really, it’s a middle class tax relief plan! When one’s mind is so totally screwed as to look at the cuts being proposed to all the programs that help the poor and middle class and call this “middle class tax relief”, we are indeed in a dark place. And most people have no clue just how bad health insurance reform is going to be for people 40+ and the poor, elderly and disabled. I have nothing but dismay and disgust for anyone who calls themselves a Republican today. Nothing.

      2. I do not know much about Kevin Brady, but he sure seems to share the fantasy world that Ryan and some of the others occupy. The tax plan will be a typical Republican Plan of giving a crumb to the Working Classes (remember I define working class as those that depend on earned income, or saved and invested earned income including social security), while giving billions to the wealthy. The same holds true for the AHCA.

      3. Agree. I have no envy or antipathy of those who have attained wealth – but I have great disagreement with those who pass laws that enhance the financial positions of those who are already secure at the expense of programs that help the poor and middle class AND deliberately misrepresent it. This, in my opinion, is the height of political dishonesty. I’d have more respect if they just called it what it is but I wonder if the Republican Party is capable of honest representation of their policy preferences. From my vantage, they do not, otherwise, why the subterfuge?

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