Nothing says “America First” like Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner negotiating a $400 million personal conflict of interest. Kushner is currently in talks with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese company associated with one of the most prominent families of the Communist Party, to sell a massive stake in his real estate company’s flagship Fifth Avenue skyscraper.
The business deal can ultimately be boiled down to a thinly veiled attempt at a Chinese company attempting to buy influence with the U.S. government through Trump’s family.
The relationship between Kushner and the chairman of Anbang, Wu Xiaohui, of course, was cultivated over a few $2,100-a-bottle Château Lafite Rothschilds. That’s in case you were wondering what it actually cost to purchase influence at the highest levels of the Trump administration.
Don’t smell the corruption yet? With luxury hotel rates in Manhattan falling, plans for condominiums and malls being abandoned, and $100 million penthouses incurring a huge drop in sales, it seems strange that Wu would choose this market to invest in. Especially since his deal with Kushner would value this otherwise-unremarkable tower at $2.8 billion. And once Anbang completes their renovation of the property, it will be worth more than $7 billion. If Kushner’s company retains any stake in the building, they will both own the most valuable real estate asset in New York. Is this what Republicans meant by America First?
By going into business with Wu, a behemoth of China’s Communist party, Kushner’s could be one of the biggest conflicts-of-interest of anyone in the Trump cabinet. That’s impressive in itself; it takes a lot to rise above the myriad of known conflicts-of-interest dogging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of Labor Andy Puzder.
Minxin Pei, a political science professor who specializes in Chinese politics and corruption at Claremont McKenna College, told the New York Times, “[Wu] is purchasing political prestige, and that is a priceless asset for somebody like him.”
With America’s interests now up for sale by one of our top diplomats, Kushner is happy to oblige. From Trump’s refusal to put his staff through a basic ethics training course and the House Republican efforts to muzzle the House Office of Government Ethics, it’s just more proof that nepotism and corruption are the Trump administration’s modus operandi.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.