Democrats probe Kushners’ billion-dollar rescue deal for family-owned skyscraper

Democrats in the US Congress have launched an investigation into whether Jared Kushner’s desire to secure a billion-dollar rescue for a skyscraper owned by his family played a role in President Donald Trump’s decision to support a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Lawmakers from the Senate Finance and House Foreign Affairs committees on Wednesday sent a wide-ranging document request to Brookfield Asset Management, which counts the Qatar Investment Authority among its major financial backers and signed a long-term lease on the office tower in 2018.

The deal followed frenetic efforts by the Kushner family to raise enough money to meet a $1.2bn mortgage payment on the tower, and coincided with a series of sharp turns in US foreign policy towards Qatar.

At the time, Mr Kushner, the presidential son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, was meeting Middle Eastern leaders outside traditional diplomatic channels and assuming a far-reaching role in crafting US foreign policy.

“While Brookfield has claimed that Qatari representatives had no involvement in the 666 Fifth Avenue transaction,” Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Joaquin Castro wrote, “we remain troubled that Qatari funds ended up in a billion-dollar rescue for a company directly tied to Jared Kushner”.

They added: “Federal criminal conflicts of interest statutes for senior White House officials extend not only to matters affecting their own financial interests, but that of their direct relatives.”

Among the areas of focus identified by Congressional investigators is Brookfield’s decision to pay nearly a century of rent in advance when it leased 666 Fifth Avenue in 2018, months before the Kushner mortgage fell due.

© Drew Angerer/Getty

At the time, the Canadian asset manager insisted that “no Qatar-linked entity has any involvement in, investment in or even knowledge of this potential transaction”.

But the lawmakers cited a Financial Times investigation published earlier this year, which found that the payment, in excess of $1bn, came from a vehicle that was controlled by Brookfield Property Partners (BPY), an investment trust that has sold $1.8bn of preferred equity to the QIA sovereign wealth fund.

“This would give QIA ‘significant influence’ . . . and allow it ‘to receive confidential information that other investors never see’”, the lawmakers wrote, citing the FT report. Brookfield has said that Doha never exercised its rights to access information or appoint a director to the BPY board.

Brookfield’s deal with Mr Kushner’s family came at a time when the Trump administration whipsawed between supporting Qatar and criticising the emirate over alleged support for terrorists, creating a precarious position for a traditional US ally that was then under economic blockade by neighbours including Saudi Arabia.

Rex Tillerson, then Mr Trump’s secretary of state, urged the Saudi government to drop the blockade shortly after it was imposed in 2017, protesting the humanitarian consequences and potential damage to US interests. He was swiftly undercut by Mr Trump, who tweeted approval of the Saudi action the same afternoon. But a year later, shortly before the Brookfield deal became public, the president reversed course, appearing to withdraw his support for the blockade.

In a separate letter to a senior White House lawyer, Mr Wyden and Mr Castro asked to see any ethics advice provided to Mr Kushner regarding his work on Middle East policy.

They wrote: “The stunning reversal in US policy towards Qatar raises serious questions about what role Jared Kushner — and the financial interests of his family — may have played in influencing US foreign policy regarding the blockade.”

Brookfield, Kushner Companies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday morning.

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