Kushner Companies on Monday said that it didn’t mean to mention Jared Kushner’s role in the Trump administration in order to reel in Chinese investors to help fund a development in New Jersey.
“In the course of discussing this project and the firm’s history with potential investors, Ms. Meyer wanted to make clear that her brother had stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with this project,” the company said in a statement. “Kushner Companies apologizes if that mention of her brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors. That was not Ms. Meyer’s intention.”
Nicole Kushner Meyer mentioned her brother over the weekend at an investment conference in Beijing while she pitched the audience on a development in Jersey City, One Journal Square.
“In 2008, my brother Jared Kushner joined the family company as CEO, and recently moved to Washington to join the administration,” Meyer said on Saturday, as quoted by CNN Money.
A lawyer for Jared Kushner, Blake Roberts, said in a statement obtained by the Washington Post that his client had divested from the project.
“Mr. Kushner divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he is not a beneficiary of, a mechanism suggested by the Office of Government Ethics. As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program,” Roberts said.
Ethics filings corroborate that Kushner divested from the One Journal Square project, although he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, still benefit from investments in other Kushner Companies projects.
Meyer and other representatives of the family’s real estate business were looking for Chinese citizens to invest in the project through the EB-5 visa program. Immigrants may get a green card if they invest $500,000 or more in a project that creates jobs in the United States.
Another speaker at the Beijing conference told the audience to invest soon, in case the Trump administration changes rules for visas, according to the Washington Post.
After the Meyer spoke in Beijing on Saturday, journalists were blocked from attending a similar event in Shanghai on Sunday, Reuters reported.
One Journal Square has also faced local pushback since Meyer pitched the Jersey City project to foreign investors over the weekend. Steven Fulop, the city’s mayor, announced in a Facebook post on Sunday that he opposes Kushner Companies’ request for a tax abatement.
“I want to be clear with residents on where the city stands here. Last week, the developer of this project submitted an application to Jersey City for a tax subsidy and abatement on this property. The administration made clear to the applicant that the city is not supportive of their request and while the law requires a first reading ordinance vote if they submit an application, I don’t foresee the council voting in favor,” Fulop wrote. “I know for certain I have made my feelings clear here on this project and what I feel works best for Jersey City. This tax abatement application doesn’t work for us.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has sponsored a bill to eliminate the EB-5 visa program along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), on Monday afternoon issued a statement calling for an end to the program. She said that the reports on the Kushner Companies’ investment pitch shows there is “a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House” when it comes to the EB-5 visa program.
“I’ve long called for an end to the EB-5 program. It says that visas—and eventual U.S. citizenship—are for sale, a terrible message for the 4.4 million people waiting in line for visas—some for as long as 23 years,” Feinstein said in the statement.
“EB-5 is also rife with fraud and abuse. In addition to numerous cases of securities fraud, the program is frequently exploited by real estate developers to finance projects in the wealthiest parts of this country,” she continued. “This is a far cry from the program’s original intent to spur economic development in depressed communities. There isn’t a better example of how the program has been distorted than the Kushner Company’s marketing campaign in China.”
Feinstein said that because Trump and Kushner will not completely divest from their business interests, “the only way to eliminate this conflict is for Congress to allow the program to expire in September.”
This post has been updated.