Weeks after the Associated Press reported that the president's daughter could benefit from a tax program she and husband Jared Kushner promoted, it seems as if Ivanka Trump's involvement in the "Opportunity Zones" program could land her in hot water. On Friday, a watchdog group asked the Justice Department to investigate investigate Ivanka's participation, alleging a conflict of interest.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration worked to include a real estate investment program into a tax bill. The provision offered significant tax breaks to developers wiling to invest in projects located in low-income communities that the IRS and state governors would designate as "Opportunity Zones." And according to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump claimed Ivanka had been "pushing this very hard" for the program in early 2018.
But does Ivanka's involvement in getting the program into the tax bill constitute a conflict of interest? In a letter sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday, government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) argued that Ivanka was "required" to recuse herself from particular matters related to the Opportunity Zones program because of her husband's involvement with a firm that could benefit from that — and that in failing to do so she may have violated the law.
In a statement to Bustle, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Abbe Lowell, who serves as ethics attorney for Ivanka, calls the complaint "politically motivated and meritless."
"The Opportunity Zones legislation is a broad-sweeping, bi-partisan policy that impacts nearly 35 million Americans in communities designated by each state's governor as underserved and in need of investment," Mirijanian says. "Ms. Trump is proud of her work on this legislation, and she adheres to the ethics advice she has received from Counsel about what issues she can work on and those to which she is recused."
Bustle has also reached out to both the White House and the Department of Justice for comment.
CREW is now asking the Justice Department to investigate whether Ivanka violated the primary federal conflict of interest law. "Under the conflict of interest law, Mr. Kushner's financial interests are imputed to Ms. Trump, and she was required to recuse from particular matters related to the program," their complaint reads. "By failing to do so, Ms. Trump may have violated the conflict of interest law."
According to CNN, Kushner holds financial interests worth up to $50 million in Cadre, a real estate investment firm, which recently announced it was seeking to get involved in a number of Opportunity Zones projects across the country. What's more, the Associated Press has reported that Kushner and Ivanka, separately, own interests in "at least 13 properties held by Kushner's family firm that could qualify for the tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York and Maryland."
It's worth noting, however, that both CNN and the Associated Press have reported that it's unclear whether Cadre plans to claim the tax breaks offered through the Opportunity Zones program.
"Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have continued to conduct themselves in ways that create a real possibility that they are capitalizing on their roles as government officials to enrich themselves," Noah Bookbinder, CREW's executive director, said in a statement released Friday. "Government employees should never work on matters affecting their own finances, but Ivanka Trump appears to have done just that."