Kushner family drops out of China investor summit
The sister of White House adviser Jared Kushner on Thursday pulled out of the family company’s scheduled weekend presentation to potential Chinese investors amid growing criticism that she had used her brother’s position to benefit the family’s real estate empire.
The announcement that Nicole Kushner Meyer would not appear at an investor presentation scheduled for Saturday in Shenzhen came amid new demands that the Trump administration correct abuses in the EB-5 visa program, which allows wealthy foreign investors to get U.S. visas. Kushner Cos. has been using the controversial program to try to raise $150 million for a luxury high-rise apartment building in New Jersey.
“No one from Kushner Companies will be in China this weekend,” Risa Heller, a company spokeswoman, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post on Thursday.
The White House has said that Jared Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, divested himself from the company and was not involved in his sister’s China presentations last week.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, on Thursday morning asked Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to quickly implement proposed changes to the EB-5 program that would make it more difficult for developers to finance projects in relatively wealthy areas.
Grassley said Meyer and others affiliated with Kushner Cos. appeared to have promised Chinese investors special treatment during a separate presentation last week when she mentioned her brother by name.
The Kushner project, known as One Journal Square, has become the latest example of the potential conflicts of interest Jared Kushner faces as he takes on a prominent administration role. Kushner ran the family’s real estate company before joining the administration.
Trump recently extended the EB-5 program without making changes that had been recommended by the Obama administration and supported by congressional leaders. The Trump administration, which has clamped down on immigration, says it is now weighing major changes to the EB-5 program.
Grassley said in his letter that Meyer appeared to have made misleading statements about how the visa program works, suggesting that foreigners who invest in the Kushner Cos. project will receive expedited treatment.
“We’ll respond to the senator appropriately,” DHS spokesman David Lapan said.
Grassley also called on the Trump administration to adopt proposed changes to the visa-for-cash program that were proposed by the Obama administration. The changes proposed by Grassley and others address long-standing criticism that the program is plagued by fraud and abuse. They would also imperil the Kushner family’s fundraising efforts for the Jersey City project.
“It is appropriate for the Department to clarify and affirm that no foreign investors will receive preferential treatment, that applications will be processed in the order in which they are received - subject to any existing backlog - and that future applications will be subject to the proposed regulations, when approved,” Grassley wrote.
The White House and Jared Kushner did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kushner’s sister previously apologized for mentioning her brother’s name during a presentation last week and said it was not an attempt to attract investors.
Jared Kushner has stressed that he has no ownership stake in the Jersey City project, and he has vowed to steer clear of any discussions about the EB-5 program’s future.
A promotional Chinese website had previously advertised Meyer’s appearance at an event in Shenzhen on Saturday. By Thursday afternoon, however, her name had been removed from the lineup of scheduled speakers.
The EB-5 program allows foreigners to get a fast-track U.S. visa in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in an eligible project in economically distressed or rural areas. It has been a boon to developers. But critics say loopholes have allowed deep-pocketed developers to finance lucrative projects in well-to-do urban areas instead of drawing jobs to needier areas, as the law intended.
In the days before Trump took office, the Obama administration proposed changes that address some of those criticisms, making the Jersey City project and others in relatively wealthy areas less attractive to foreign investors under the federal program’s rules. Kelly, the homeland security secretary, is weighing whether to adopt the changes and is expected to make a decision in the coming months.
- U.S. Immigration Fund - NJ
- 88 KUSHNER-KABR (Trump Bay Street)
- Chuck Grassley
- One Journal Square (EB-5 Not Used)
- New Jersey
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