On Friday, Axios reported that House Democrats want to investigate the curious lease that bailed out the real estate company of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — and whether the Qatari government, which was heavily invested in that deal, has influence over Kushner’s foreign policy work in the White House.
It is not currently clear which House committee has jurisdiction to probe the deal. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, has called the deal “really troubling,” and House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said, “We’ve been looking at that for a while.” Cummings said that at least part of the investigation might fall to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee.
The probe would center on 666 Fifth Ave, an office skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan which Kushner bought for a record $1.8 billion in 2007. The deal soon proved to be a disaster — Kushner bought it at the top of the market, and it sank his company into debt, with the building 30 percent vacant and its tenants only producing half the revenue necessary to cover the mortgage.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in summer of last year, Kushner Companies was saved by a cash infusion from Brookfield Asset Management, which signed a 99-year lease on the building. The company made enough on the deal to pay down its $1.1 billion debt and buy out Vornado Realty Trust, their partner on the investment.
But the second-largest investor in Brookfield is a state-run sovereign wealth fund controlled by the government of Qatar. This is worrisome because Kushner has been a chief adviser for, and the public face of, the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, to the point where Kushner is shutting American diplomats out of meetings to discuss affairs himself with foreign leaders — which calls into question whether the Qatari government has any financial influence over Kushner.
Brookfield, for its part, claims that the Qatar Investment Authority was not aware of the deal to lease Kushner’s office building until it was announced. But there are broad concerns about Kushner’s vulnerability to foreign influence — the governments of China, Israel, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates have all reportedly discussed whether they can exploit Kushner’s financial commitments and lack of experience to manipulate White House policy in their favor.
It is problematic enough that Kushner has been given such broad power over foreign policy. The fact that he has financial connections to foreign governments calls that even further into question.