President Trump’s incessant denial of any conflicts of interest are beginning to reach farcical levels. Does he actually believe there is anyone (apart from his own ardent base) who isn’t keeping count at this point?
Well, as if we need any more proof, here it is.
Last Saturday, Nicole Meyer, the sister of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, attempted to woo over 100 Chinese businesses into investing in a Jersey City, NJ housing development with an investor visa.
The EB-5 visa program grants a path to citizenship to anyone who invests a minimum of $500,000 in an American development project, and both the Trump Organization and Kushner’s family business have used it in the past to attract investors.
Ms. Meyer touted it to drum up business last week at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Beijing, China.
An advertisement for the event stated:
“Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”
While vowing to tighten security at our borders, President Trump is using the visa program as a selling point.
According to a piece in Slate, a speaker at the event said:
“Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules.”
Initially, journalists were positioned at the back of the ballroom, but a public-relations representative soon ejected the Washington Post and New York Times after proceedings got underway, stating foreign reporters threatened the event’s “stability.”
The Washington Post stated:
“At one point, organizers grabbed a reporter’s phone and backpack to try to force that person to leave. Later, as investors started leaving the ballroom, organizers physically surrounded attendees to stop them from giving interviews.”
Watchdogs and ethics experts criticized the Beijing event as an attempt to cash in on Jared Kushner’s relationship with the new American president. Promotional materials of the event even note the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status.
Wang Yun, a Chinese investor and attendee, affirmed the Kushner family’s ties to Trump were part of the reason people are drawn to the project. He said:
“Even though this is the project of the son-in-law’s family, of course it is still affiliated.”
Wang commented the link to Trump would be beneficial if Trump’s presidency goes well but could prove disastrous if it does not. He said:
“We heard that there are rumors that he is the most likely to be impeached president in American history. That’s why I doubt this project.”
Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said:
“It’s incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate. They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa. . . . They’re [Chinese applicants] not going to take a chance. Of course they’re going to want to invest.”
As chief executive of his family’s real estate company before Trump took office, Jared Kushner raised $50 million from Chinese EB-5 applicants for a Trump-apartment building in Jersey City, according to a Bloomberg News report in March.
In 2015, a Government Accountability Office report determined the EB-5 program carried a high risk of fraud, was riddled with counterfeit documentation, and had “no reliable method to verify the source of the funds of petitioners.”
Yet it remains popular in China. Recent estimates reveal more than 80% of EB-5 visas were issued to Chinese investors.
The Trump clan can keep insisting it presents no conflict of interest, but like everything else coming out of the Oval Office, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Featured image from Twitter.