Ethics watchdog files complaint against Kushner

Ethics watchdog files complaint against Kushner
© Greg Nash

A government watchdog group on Thursday filed a complaint with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) over White House adviser Jared Kushner's ownership interest in a real estate investment company.

The complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleges that President Trump’s son-in-law did not disclose his interest in the online real estate investment company Cadre, which he cofounded, and has failed to divest from the company, creating conflicts of interest.

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“Kushner’s failure to disclose his ownership in Cadre is very troubling,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

“It appears to be one of his larger investments, not something he could easily overlook, and it is impossible to ensure that senior government officials are behaving ethically if they fail to disclose key assets,” he continued.

The complaint says OGE has granted a certificate of divestiture, which permits government employees “to defer capital gains taxes on property they sell to comply with conflict of interest requirements.”

CREW says the certificate of divestiture would require Kushner to sell his interests in Cadre, which he has not done.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in May that Kushner had a stake in Cadre. 

A lawyer for Kushner, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement that Kushner disclosed and discussed his interests with Cadre to OGE before Trump's inauguration, and that it was addressed in his White House ethics agreement. 

"Mr. Kushner resigned from Cadre’s board, assigned his voting rights, and reduced his ownership share. As part of this restructuring, Mr. Kushner's interest in Cadre was transferred to BFPS Ventures, LLC," Gorelick said in the statement, which was issued in May.

"The interest in Cadre was added before we were contacted by the Wall Street Journal. We prepared the form on Mr. Kushner’s behalf and have been working closely with OGE to ensure that it satisfies disclosure requirements," Gorelick said.

Gorelick said "additional details regarding the asset" have been added to a form that will be released publicly following OGE certification.

The lawyer also noted that OGE had said in a letter the House ethics committee that “it is normal for an appointee to make changes to a financial disclosure report and add information during [the OGE] review process." 

"Mr. Kushner will recuse consistent with government ethics rules," Gorelick added.

The CREW complaint against Kushner is just one of a long list of ethics complaints facing the Trump administration, most notably the president’s ties to the Trump Organization, which is an umbrella for Trump’s investments in real estate and other businesses.

A top Justice Department official serving as a corporate compliance watchdog resigned last week, saying she could not require companies to follow government ethics laws when members of the administration were not acting appropriately regarding ethics and compliance.

- This story was updated at 1:17 p.m.