You have to feel for Omarosa too. She took a beating in the media for using her presidential connections to host bridal events at the White House. Meanwhile, Prince Jared was holding court on the premises with banks who later went on to approve mega-loans for his family business, the sort of sleaze that would have given right-wing media weeks of material if, say, Chelsea Clinton had swung it under President Hillary.
Don’t the lower-ranking guys in this syndicate get a cut? Why should the Trumps be the only ones in the administration to have fun splashing around in the Washington swamp?
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.
The Kushner family’s firm got a $325 million loan from Citigroup last year too not long after the company’s CEO met with Jared to discuss “financial and trade policy.” Everyone involved naturally insists that the transactions were above board: Jared no longer works for the family business, Harris didn’t take part in the loan consideration process, Citigroup had had the Kushner firm as a client before, etc. But Jared hasn’t divested from the business. The Trump family’s basic indifference to conflicts of interest has allowed him to maintain the majority of his holdings in the firm even as he meets with potential creditors to discuss government matters, so he’s profiting directly from their decisions. And loan officers at the banks surely don’t need direct pressure from the top to have their decisions about the Kushner firm influenced by political considerations. If you work for Citigroup or Apollo and you know the CEO has an “in” in the West Wing with an advisor as powerful as Jared, you’re going to think very, very carefully about declining credit to the Kushner family business.
As I say, all of this would be instantly apparent to Republicans if Chelsea Clinton were the beneficiary instead of Jared Kushner. Trump himself would be doing entire “Crooked Hillary” riffs about it on Twitter, and rightly so. How strange it is, though, that we’re only finding out about these highly dubious meetings now, many months after they took place. Just like it was strange that we only found out on Monday that Kushner had maintained his own foreign contacts as a diplomat without sharing them with the NSC. There sure are a lot of damaging leaks about Jared all of a sudden, now that John Kelly’s downgraded his security clearance. It’s almost as if Kelly and his allies are airing Kushner’s dirty laundry to the press to justify Kelly’s decision to downgrade him, and to put pressure on Trump not to grant Jared any special waiver from the clearance process. CNN reported last night that Kushner has seemed increasingly “paranoid” lately about people in the White House being out to get him, but is it paranoia if people really are out to get you?
Kushner, whose business dealings and wide portfolio have been the subject of intense scrutiny, told people that he suspected the timing of the story about his foreign contacts was coordinated to be released when issues surrounding his security clearance were in the news, according to a source familiar with his thinking, who described his demeanor in recent days as paranoid…
Kushner also feels that he has come under fire from his own West Wing colleagues recently, with the notion that “everyone is out to get him,” a source said. This person noted that Kushner remains exasperated by Kelly’s decision to overhaul the security clearance process, feeling that it is mainly directed at him. He has been asking others, “Why is John Kelly doing this?”
I’m guessing Kelly’s doing it because the Rob Porter clusterfark was a thorn in his and Trump’s side for the better part of two weeks and there are plenty of reasons to believe Kushner is even more compromised than Porter was by his private dealings. If news breaks tomorrow that the president’s extremely influential son-in-law has been selling influence to foreign diplomats — and/or is being indicted by the special counsel for shady dealings abroad — that’s easily the worst crisis of Trump’s presidency so far. The chief of staff is supposed to protect his boss, right? Well, pushing Kushner out is an obvious way to protect him, even if Trump doesn’t realize it.
One X factor, though. With Hope Hicks on her way out and Javanka’s status in the White House suddenly shaky, POTUS is on the brink of being left all alone without anyone left from his inner circle. Reporters were tweeting last night that that’s a bad place to be for a man who famously seems to trust no one apart from family (or near-family like Hicks). I wonder if that’s why Trump is suddenly leaning on Kelly to find jobs in the West Wing for Corey Lewandowski and Anthony Scaramucci. As confidants like Omarosa and Keith Schiller have departed, he may have convinced himself that they need replacing with other old-school Trump cronies. Kelly may succeed in shedding Hicks and Kushner but at the price of installing Scaramucci and Lewandowski in their place. Will that make his job easier or harder?
Here’s Scaramucci this morning exacting some revenge on the man who fired him last year by insisting that morale in the White House under Kelly is at an all-time low. I wonder if he’s working with Jared and Ivanka on the sort of arrangement I speculated about yesterday vis-a-vis Lewandowski: If Trump cronies outside the White House can save Javanka by convincing Trump to fire Kelly, Jared and Ivanka may reward them by going to bat for them with new White House jobs once Kelly’s gone.