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Friday
Apr132018

Democrats renew push for records of controversial Kushner loans

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Sen. Elizabeth Warren and a group of top Democratic lawmakers are renewing their focus on two loans totaling more than $500 million made by a pair of Wall Street firms to Jared Kushner’s family real estate business and asking for more information about another, recently disclosed loan made by one of the firms.

In a pair of letters sent on Friday, copies of which can be read below, Warren (D-Massachusetts), along with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) asked Citigroup and Apollo Global Management to provide detailed records of the loans to Kushner Companies as well as contacts with Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, himself.

Kushner has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the follow-up inquiry into whether Kushner violated federal ethics rules is the latest indication that Democrats remain interested in probing potential conflicts of interest in the White House. They could pursue that line of inquiry more aggressively if they retake the House or Senate in the midterm elections later this year.

Attorneys for Citigroup and the real-estate arm of Apollo Global Management have defended the loans and denied any connection between the transactions and a series of meetings between Kushner and the leaders of the financial firms.

Spokespersons for Citigroup, Apollo and Kushner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, the Democrats, who cannot issue subpoenas to enforce their requests, said they have been unable to “conduct a complete evaluation of whether Mr. Kushner may have violated conflict of interest rules or ethics guidelines” based on the initial responses from the attorneys representing both firms.

As first reported by the New York Times, Citigroup lent Kushner Companies $325 million for a Brooklyn property in March of 2017, shortly after Citigroup chief Michael Corbat met with Kushner at the White House.

In a March letter to lawmakers, Citi said the Kushner family “has been a client of Citi for decades” and sought to quiet suspicions about the timing of the loan following Corbat’s meeting with Kushner.

“Transactions of this nature take a long time to come to fruition and Citi had begun exploring this loan in late 2016,” Citi general counsel Rohan Weerasinghe said in the letter.

Democrats are asking for a more detailed timeline of the loan deal, and whether any of Citigroup’s debt financing to Kushner Companies involve financing from foreign entities or governments.

The Times also reported that Apollo Commercial Real Estate loaned Kushner Companies $184 million in November 2017 to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper after Joshua Harris, a founder of parent company Apollo Global Management, had met repeatedly with Kushner and even advised other Trump administration officials.

In a letter to Democrats last month, Apollo lawyer Kevin Downey said that Harris was not involved in the decision to loan money to Kushner Companies and that the loan “was made in the ordinary course of business, at market terms."

"Josh Harris and Jared Kushner never discussed any loans to Kushner Companies," he said, adding that Apollo's "sole purpose in making the Chicago Loan was to earn an appropriate return on behalf of its investors."

Downey also revealed that Apollo participated in another loan to Kushner Companies worth $75 million for the purchase of properties in Brooklyn in the spring of 2017 but said Apollo was not aware of any "direct engagement" between its real estate arm and Kushner Companies.

"The principal terms were negotiated by Citi as the primary lender, and, to our knowledge, Jared Kushner did not play any role with respect to the loan," he said.

Democrats, in their follow up request, have asked for more details about other loan, including all terms and conditions and the information on when the loan was solicited and approved.

The Guardian recently reported that Harris was considered for the role of Trump’s budget director shortly after Trump won the election in 2016, about a year before the loan to Kushner Companies, so Democrats have also asked Apollo whether Kushner and Harris ever discussed the Apollo co-founder serving in Trump’s administration.

Kushner has denied wrongdoing in meeting with the financial firm officials, and a spokesman for his lawyer Abbe Lowell said Kushner has had “no role” in his family’s business since joining the White House, but according to financial disclosure forms released by the White House in April, both Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, remain financial beneficiaries of the Kushner business empire.

Kushner’s legal team and the White House have previously said the White House counsel’s office determined that Kushner did not break any rules in his interactions with both financial firms. House Democrats have asked the White House for the results of that ethics review, but according to a Democratic aide, they have not received a response.

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