Another member of the Trump administration is being investigated, but the most shocking piece is just who's doing the investigating. The White House is investigating Jared Kushner's family business loans. The two loans total more than $500 million and pose a potential legal quagmire for the administration if they're found to have breached criminal laws or federal ethics regulations, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The news broke after a Democratic lawmaker asked the Office of Government Ethics what the official opinion was on the matter. The office checked with the White House and penned a response. David Apol, the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote:
I have discussed this matter with the White House Counsel's Office in order to ensure that they have begun the process of ascertaining the facts necessary to determine whether any law or regulation has been violated. During that discussion, the White House informed me that they had already begun this process.
Apol also told the inquiring party, Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Oversight Committee, that it's ultimately up to the White House to do the investigation, as well as apply any disciplinary or corrective action. Prosecution would like with the Justice Department. The White House did provide not comment to the Journal.
The New York Times reported in late February that Kushner met with executives from both lenders, Citigroup Inc. and the real-estate arm of Apollo Global Management LLC, in the first half of 2017 in the White House. That was before the loan money was disbursed. The companies went on to lend $325 million and $184 million respectively to the Kushner family real estate business.
Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell, defended Kushner in a statement:
The White House counsel concluded there was were no issues involving Jared. He was not involved with his former company after he entered government service; the transactions in question came after that; he had nothing to do with those transactions; the transactions had nothing to do with any of his meetings in the White House, and the people from the companies involved have confirmed that as well.
Whether the investigation continues or has been concluded, as Lowell's statement suggests, is unclear. The letter from the Office of Government Ethics was dated March 22, but was just released Monday.
Citi addressed the issue in a letter to Congress, after several legislators wrote the company inquiring about the loan. The bank told lawmakers that the executive who visited the White House was "was unaware of the transaction," and that he had gone to speak on trade issues and NAFTA.
"Transactions of this nature take a long time to come to fruition and Citi had begun exploring this loan in late 2016," the bank's letter said. "The Kushner family has been a client of Citi for decades."
The bank recently loaned Kushner Cos. another $200 million.
Apollo also penned a letter to Congress in response to inquiries about Kushner's meeting with their executive. "Josh Harris and Jared Kushner never discussed any loans related to Kushner Companies," the letter said, and the loan "was negotiated on behalf of ARI by an Apollo investment professional with a history of doing business with Kushner Companies that predated his tenure at Apollo."
As for Kushner Companies, a spokesperson told CBS News that they have not been contacted regarding the matter. "We have not received an inquiry," the spokesperson said.
This is not the only investigation Kushner has been tied to. Special counsel Robert Mueller spoke with him last fall about former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Mueller is also reportedly exploring Kushner's business talks with foreigners.
But for the White House to be investigating the family business loans is quite the surprise.