In a letter sent to Jared Kushner today, Democracy 21 called on President Trump’s Senior Adviser “to publicly announce now that you are recusing yourself from any involvement in a number of policy areas in order to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts.”

The letter pointed to Kushner’s “unprecedented White House portfolio, your role as adviser to President Trump, your relationship with the President as his son-in-law and your family’s very substantial foreign and domestic business interests” in calling for the Kushner recusals.

The letter stated that the recusals should include “any involvement in all policy areas that could directly affect your business interests or those of your spouse, including real estate, taxes, trade, banking and financial services, and certain foreign policy areas.”

The letter noted that federal conflicts of interest rules attribute his wife Ivanka Trump’s business interests to Kushner. The letter stated:

An Associated Press story stated that your spouse recently “won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.”

The letter also stated:

A New York Times story notes that your wife already has “at least 23 trademarks for everything from swimwear to wedding dresses” in China.  Another Associated Press story stated that your spouse’s company, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, applied for 36 trademarks in China between March and July of last year.

The letter stated that because of Ms. Trump’s business interests in China, including valuable trademarks and pending trademark applications, “we believe you are required by the law and regulations to recuse yourself from all matters dealing with China in carrying out your responsibilities.”

The letter cited Office of Government Ethics regulation 5 C.F.R. § 2635.5, which says that the conflict of interest rules apply where an employee knows that a particular matter “is likely to have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interest of a member of his household” and “the circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality in the matter.”

According to the letter:

Because the Chinese government exercises complete control over all foreign business interests in the country, we believe that any actions you take or any policy advice you give on any matter dealing with China would cause “a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question [your] impartiality in the matter.”

“We are getting dangerously close to creating in our country the same kind of ‘princelings’ system that exists in China and other countries. In these countries, huge financial benefits accrue to the family members of the country’s leaders and also through them to the leaders themselves, and create opportunities for influence buying and corruption,” Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said.

“President Trump’s sons are roaming the United States and the world seeking lucrative business deals which will financially benefit them and President Trump, who continues to be the owner of The Trump Organization. It is incumbent on Jared Kushner, who has chosen to serve in government, to take all necessary steps to assure the American people that he is avoiding all actual and apparent conflicts of interest and is not using his public office for personal financial gain,” Wertheimer said.

The letter noted Kushner’s commitment to “abide by all the appropriate recusal requirements of the ethical guidelines” but said that “more is required of you to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts than simply adhering to the letter of section 208 and its implementing regulations.”

According to the letter:

Your commitment to abide by the law’s conflicts of interest provisions is necessary but not sufficient to address the multitude of potential conflicts of interest and appearance of conflicts that you face in light of the unique role you are playing in the Trump Administration. Your approach is also inadequate as a means of assuring the American public that your White House office is not being used to benefit your personal financial holdings, or those of your spouse.

The letter noted that while Kushner made a partial divestiture of his assets in entering government, he continued to own “a vast array of assets, including scores of real estate business interests, in a portfolio that is valued at as much as $740 million.”

The letter stated:

Given these circumstances, a prophylactic solution – announcing in advance your recusal from certain issue areas – is called for in order to provide necessary assurances to the American people that your conflicts problems are being avoided and that your public office is not being used for personal financial gain.

The letter stated:

This problem would have been best addressed by your making a full divestiture of your business assets into a blind trust that complied with the requirements of the Ethics in Government Act. This remains the best way for you to resolve these issues.

According to the letter:

Your formally assigned duties as Senior Adviser to President Trump include heading a new White House Office of American Innovation that has a mandate to reorganize the federal government and that reports directly to President Trump. Your duties also include reforming the treatment of veterans, solving the opioid crisis, and foreign policy matters involving China, Canada, Mexico and the Middle East, including brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  According to The Washington Post you also are “the primary point of contact for presidents, ministers and ambassadors from more than two dozen countries.”

According to the letter:

The American people are entitled to know that with business holdings worth as much as $740 million, you are avoiding all actual and apparent of conflicts of interest and that you are not using your unique role in the Trump Administration for personal financial gain.  In addition to satisfying the strict standards of section 208 and its implementing regulations, this requires broad, prophylactic recusals in a number of areas.

Accordingly, given your unique role in the Trump Administration, Democracy 21 calls on you to publicly announce now that you are recusing yourself from participating in all policy matters that relate to your vast business interests, including real estate, taxes, trade, banking and financial services. We also call on you to recuse yourself from all policy matters relating to China and to other foreign countries where your wife’s business interests may be affected.

The letter concluded:

These steps are necessary to protect the integrity of our government and the interests of the American people whom you have chosen to serve.

 

 

 

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