May 7 (UPI) — White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said he no longer is involved in his family’s real estate business, but his sister is soliciting investors in China for a project in the United States.
On Saturday, Nicole Kushner Meyer spoke to Chinese investors in Beijing, seeking $150 million in financing for a Jersey City housing development known as One Journal Square.
An ad for the event said: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”
EB-5 visas allow immigrants a path to a green card if they create jobs in the United States by investing more than $500,000 in a project.
The event was organized by Chinese immigration agency Qiaowai,
Speaking in a Ritz Carlton ballroom, Meyer said the project “means a lot to me and my entire family.”
President Donald Trump, the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, has vowed to severely tighten the use of work visas.
Potential investors in the Kushner project were told they should act quickly because the EB-5 program might raise the required minimum investment.
“Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules,” one speaker said.
The company says about 15 percent of the project will be funded through the EB-5 program.
Wang Yun, one of 100 more than investors at the event, told The Washington Post the Kushner family’s ties to Trump were part of the project’s appeal.
“Even though this is the project of the son-in-law’s family, of course it is still affiliated,” Wang said.
During Meyer’s talk, journalists for The New York Times and The Washington Post were removed from the ballroom. They were told it was a “private event,” even though it had been publicly advertised.
After the event, Meyer didn’t respond whether she was concerned about possible conflicts of interest facing her brother. A man accompanying her, shouted, “Please leave us alone!”
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is a central voice on China.
Kushner has held on to the vast majority of his investments and is the beneficiary of trusts that own his stakes in Kushner Companies properties and other investments, worth as much as $600 million.
“Mr. Kushner divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he is not a beneficiary of, a mechanism suggested by the Office of Government Ethics,” said Blake Roberts, an attorney at WilmerHale advising Kushner on ethics issues. “As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program.”
The $976.4 million One Journal Square project includes two towers, 1,476 luxury apartments and even a medical center for pets. It has been promoted as “Kushner 1” and construction is scheduled to begin in early 2018.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal nonprofit group, told The New York Times the event was “highly problematic” and looks like it is selling access to Kushner. He urged Kushner to recuse himself from any decisions related to the EB-5 program.
Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush‘s administration, also criticized the sales pitch.
“It’s incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate,” Painter said to The Washington Post. “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.”