Trump Couple, Now White House Employees, Can’t Escape Conflict Laws

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Doesn't mean they won't try:

The husband-and-wife team of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, now both senior federal government officials, has been alongside President Trump as the White House has hosted dozens of chief executives and a handful of world leaders in recent weeks.

It is a rarefied crowd, one that has included the top executives of some of the world’s largest automobile, airline, chemical, pharmaceutical and tech companies. Mr. Kushner will continue to keep such select company now that he has helped create a new office that Mr. Trump is calling the White House Office of American Innovation.

But the financial disclosure report released late Friday for Mr. Kushner, which shows that he and his wife still benefit financially from a real estate and investment empire worth as much as $740 million, makes clear that this most powerful Washington couple is walking on perilous legal and ethical ground, according to several prominent experts on the subject.

Unlike Mr. Trump, who is exempt from conflict of interest laws, both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump — who took a formal White House position this past week — are forbidden under federal criminal and civil law to take any action that might benefit their particular financial holdings.

Donald Trump can evade legal responsibility even if the conflicts of interest remain,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal nonprofit group. “His daughter and son-in-law don’t have that escape hatch.”

Mr. Kushner did resign from more than 200 positions in the partnerships and limited liability companies that make up the family-run multibillion-dollar real estate business. But the financial disclosure report shows that Mr. Kushner will remain a beneficiary of most of those same entities.

Jamie Gorelick, who served as deputy attorney general at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration and is now advising Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump on government ethics issues, said that the couple could continue to hold on to so many of their assets because most of the value is tied up in buildings.

“The real estate assets that Kushner is holding on to are unlikely to pose the kinds of conflicts that would trigger the need to divest,” Ms. Gorelick, a partner at WilmerHale, the law firm, said in a statement on Friday. “The remaining conflicts, from a practical perspective, are pretty narrow and very manageable.”

But real estate projects like the Kushner Companies’ deals have become a magnet for opaque foreign money — often from parts of the world that present thorny policy questions, such as China, where Mr. Kushner’s company has actively sought investors, as well as the Middle East and Russia. As part of his exceptionally broad portfolio in the White House, Mr. Kushner has been a crucial figure in arranging the visit of the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, on Thursday in Florida.

The mystery behind many real estate investments involving foreigners prompted the Treasury Department last year to push for additional disclosures as a way to combat money laundering.

While Mr. Kushner may face a potential ethical minefield, the disclosure form makes it difficult to determine exactly where those mines might be situated. The form, which runs 54 pages and lists hundreds of entities, reveals few details about the underlying investments that make up the Kushner empire, such as the addresses of buildings, sources of financing and names of partners.

You can read the rest at the New York Times.

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