Republicans Look to Trump to Help Pass Immigration Bill

House Republicans are looking to President Donald Trump to help them pass an immigration bill that does not have the support of right-wing lawmakers. 

A day after Speaker Paul Ryan announced that the House would vote next week on two competing immigration measures, the details are still being worked out on a Republican-approved bill that would grant young undocumented immigrants a way to citizenship.

WATCH: DACA May Finally Get a Vote in the House

The bill would grant “Dreamers,” people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, a respite from the threat of deportation and a chance to gain U.S. citizenship. As a compromise to conservatives, the bill would also finance Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, curb family migration and end the visa lottery program.

“We’ve been working hand in glove with the administration on this to make sure that we’re bringing a bill that represents the president’s ‘four pillars’ so that we can come together,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday. “It’s a product of good compromise.”

At a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said Trump “seemed very supportive” of the compromise,” lawmakers told reporters. 

But despite Ryan’s assurance of the president’s support, some conservatives might be looking for a more vocal endorsement from Trump. 

Moderate Republicans and Democrats had threatened use a discharge petition to force a vote on four immigration bills. 

A discharge petition is a procedural move that forces a bill out of committee and to the House floor for a vote. In order to succeed, it needs 218 signatures. But the coalition fell short by two Republican signatures. 

The Republican leadership had feared that a discharge petition could have led to a coalition of Democrats and a few Republicans passing bills helping Dreamers without strong enough enforcement provisions. 

House Republicans have been struggling over immigration legislation since Trump last year ended the Obama administration-era program that protected the Dreamers.


Lawyers to Challenge Sessions’ Ruling In Asylum Case

Lawyers for a Salvadoran woman at the center of a controversial ruling on asylum by Attorney General Jeff Sessions say they are looking to challenge the decision that could prevent tens of thousands of immigrants from being granted asylum.

In a sweeping opinion that has touched off an outcry among immigration rights advocates, Sessions on Monday reversed a 2016 grant of asylum to the woman who had been abused by her husband, ruling that victims of domestic violence are not generally eligible for asylum under U.S. immigration law.

While the decision applies to all seeking asylum on grounds of domestic and gang violence, applicants from Mexico and the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, could be hit especially hard, advocates say. The four countries accounted for 35 percent of asylum claims filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in March. 

Though Sessions directed his ruling at immigration judges, its effect could be felt beyond the court system, said Blaine Bookey, a co-legal director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, which is representing the Salvadoran woman. 

“The attorney general’s decision applies to all adjudicators, including the appellate body, the immigration courts, as well as the Asylum Office, even down to the border officers who are doing the initial threshold screenings of individuals,” Bookey said. 

A recent uptick in the rejection rate of asylum cases could accelerate, she said. “This decision only provides further support to officers who would not want to recognize certain claims.”

But she said the attorney general’s decision in the case is not necessarily the final word. 

Appeal for A.B.

The Salvadoran woman, known by her initials A.B., can still pursue one of three forms of fear-based relief in the U.S., including asylum, withholding from deportation and seeking protection under the Convention Against Torture, she said. 

The center is also examining other options to challenge Sessions’ ruling, including through the litigation of other individual asylum claims that may be negatively impacted by the decision, Bookey said.

“It is possible Ms. A.B.’s case cannot be directly appealed to (the Court of Appeals for) the Fourth Circuit now and could be challenged through other cases impacted by the (Attorney General’s) decision,” she said.

Omar Jadwat, director of the immigration rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ACLU “stands ready” to support Bookey’s group and others taking issue with the attorney general’s decision.

Jadwat said the organizations are considering “various routes” to a legal challenge.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Key issue

The Salvadoran woman first applied for asylum in 2014, claiming that she had been beaten and raped by her husband for nearly 15 years.

An immigration judge rejected her claim, prompting her lawyers to take it to the Board of Immigration Appeals. 

The board ruled in her favor in 2016, citing a precedent set in an earlier case recognizing domestic violence as a basis for asylum. 

In his decision, Sessions said the immigration board had been wrong to recognize victims of domestic violence as members of a “particular social group,” a requirement for asylum. 

“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote. 

“When, as here, the alleged persecutor is someone unaffiliated with the government, the applicant must show that flight from her country is necessary because her home government is unwilling or unable to protect her,” Sessions wrote.

In reversing the A.B. decision, the attorney general said that he was restoring “sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law.” 

No national fix

The case back was sent back to the same North Carolina immigration judge who had originally rejected A.B.’s initial asylum claim.

The judge, V. Stuart Couch, is widely expected to dismiss her case again, which could lead her lawyers to appeal to the immigration board and possibly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.

Lindsay Harris, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia and vice chair of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association’s National Asylum and Refugee Liaison Committee, said she expects the appeals court to reverse the decision, given its “friendly” attitude toward similar cases. 

However, a favorable ruling by the court would apply only in its jurisdiction and leave the precedent set by Sessions in force in other parts of the country, she said. 

“We’ll need to overturn it one by one throughout the country in other jurisdictions,” Harris said.


US Lawmakers Dismiss Trump Assertion that North Korea’s Nuclear Threat Is Over

Several U.S. lawmakers are dismissing President Donald Trump’s assertion on Twitter that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat. They also rejected any swift lifting of U.S. sanctions amid claims by Pyongyang that Trump agreed to sanctions relief during his meeting with Kim Jong Un.

Democrats are heaping scorn on Trump’s tweet that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Replying on Twitter, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said “North Korea is a real and present threat. So is a dangerously naive president.”

Providing a more gentle response was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker.

“That is a great example of hyperbole [by Trump],” Corker said. “I do not think that is what has happened.”

Much has to occur before the world can breathe easier with regard to North Korea, says Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

“The nuclear threat will not be over until they have dismantled their entire nuclear establishment and removed both their enrichment capacity and their weapons,” Shaheen said.

Lawmakers are also responding icily to reports by North Korea’s state-run media that, during the Singapore summit, Trump agreed to lift sanctions against Pyongyang as a trust-building measure. A joint statement issued at the end of the summit made no mention of sanctions relief.

“I think that is wishful thinking on their part,” said John Cornyn, the Senate’s number-two Republican. 

Cornyn told VOA the Singapore summit did not, by itself, alter the Trump administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” against Pyongyang.

“The way I interpret this first [Trump-Kim] meeting, which was surprising to everybody, is that it is like two boxers touching gloves,”  Cornyn added, “The real negotiations have yet to unfold.”

Trump could, but should not, relax sanctions against Pyongyang at any time, according to Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.

“The president has quite a bit of authority [to provide sanctions relief],” Cardin said. “He could do things. It would be a major mistake to make concessions. You have to have a game plan in place. You have to have a declaration of their [North Korea’s] entire [nuclear] program, you have to have inspectors on the ground.”

What, exactly, did Trump and Kim discuss during their historic closed-door encounter? Corker says he hopes to find out.

“Let us have the people around the president come in and talk with us,” Corker said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as early as next week.  


GOP Congressman Asks Trump to Attend Annual Baseball Game

The coach of the Republican baseball team says he personally asked President Donald Trump to attend the annual game Thursday, the anniversary of the shooting rampage that wounded the third-ranking GOP leader and others.

“I asked him to come, I guess it was last week, I was over at the Oval Office,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas. “He said, ‘I’ll be there.”‘

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

The annual game between Republicans and Democrats, which dates to 1909, carries great emotional weight this year in the wake of the shooting of  House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and other lawmakers. Scalise sustained life-threatening injuries but returned to work last fall.

Williams said Scalise was expected to start at second base Thursday at Nationals Park.

Also planning to be at the game, Williams said, were members of Trump’s Cabinet and other special guests.

Thursday also is Trump’s 72nd birthday.

The president has been publicly supportive of Scalise, the Capitol Police officers who were wounded and other first responders. At the State of the Union speech in January, Trump cited Scalise, who was shot in the hip and faced a grueling recovery.

Trump called him “one of the toughest people ever to serve in this House, a guy who took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three-and-a-half months later, the legend from Louisiana, Congressman Steve Scalise.”


Michael Cohen Hunts for New Lawyers in FBI Probe

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is searching for a new legal team to represent him in an FBI investigation of his business dealings.

A person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Cohen’s current legal team plans to stop handling the case and that Cohen has begun a hunt for new attorneys.

It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the change or who would take over. The person, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, also noted that Cohen has not yet held any discussions with prosecutors about potentially cooperating in the investigation.

Cohen has been represented since 2017 by Stephen Ryan, a Washington lawyer initially hired to prepare him for congressional testimony about alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.

After FBI agents raided Cohen’s office in April, Ryan and his New York partner, Todd Harrison, went to court to try to keep investigators from seeing some of the confiscated files on the grounds that they were protected by attorney client privilege. The pair, along with lawyers for Trump, has been working for weeks to identify documents that should be withheld from prosecutors.

The legal teams were facing a deadline of the end of this week to get much of that work complete.

Neither Cohen, Ryan nor Harrison immediately responded to messages Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors in New York have publicly said they are investigating alleged fraud in Cohen’s business dealings, but haven’t disclosed details.

When agents searched Cohen’s home, office and safety deposit box and seized his phones this spring, they sought a wide variety of information, including his involvement in arranging a secret $130,000 payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said she had a sexual tryst with Trump years ago.

Cohen has maintained that he’s innocent of wrongdoing, and Trump has called the raid on his lawyer an assault on attorney client privilege.

The news that Cohen was making a switch in his legal representation was first reported by ABC News.

It isn’t unusual for high-profile figures facing potential criminal charges to look for attorneys who have deep experience in the court where the case is expected to be tried, and a track record of negotiating with local prosecutors.

Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who is suing him in an attempt to get the actress released from a confidentiality agreement, gloated over the news in a tweet.

“Not a good look and a disaster for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump,” he said.


US High Court Voter Roll Decision May Have Limited Impact

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has cleared the way for states to take a tougher approach to maintaining their voter rolls, but will they?

Ohio plans to resume its process for removing inactive voters after it was affirmed in Monday’s 5-4 ruling. It takes a particularly aggressive approach that appears to be an outlier among states.

Few appear eager to follow.

“Our law has been on the books. It hasn’t changed, and it isn’t changing,” said Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean.

At issue is when a state begins the process to notify and ultimately remove people from the rolls after a period of non-voting. In most states with similar laws, like Oklahoma, that process begins after voters miss two or more federal elections.

In Ohio, it starts if voters sit out a two-year period that includes just one federal election. They are removed from the rolls if they fail to vote over the following four years or do not return an address-confirmation card.

Opponents of the laws say their intent is to purge people from the rolls, particularly minorities and the poor who tend to vote Democratic. Supporters say voters are given plenty of chances to keep their active status and that the rules adhere to federal law requiring states to maintain accurate voter rolls.

Democrats and voting rights groups have expressed concern that other states will be emboldened by the ruling and adopt more aggressive tactics to kick voters off the rolls. In addition to Oklahoma, Georgia, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have laws similar to Ohio’s.

But even Republican-led states where officials are concerned about voter fraud may be wary when it comes to following the Ohio model.

One hurdle is likely to come from local governments, where election administrators would have to deal with disgruntled voters and manage an increase in the number of people placed on inactive voter lists, said Myrna Perez, who has studied voter list practices in her role as deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program.

“Using one election as an indicator is going to lead to a whole lot of false positives,” she said. “There are plenty of states that clean their voter rolls successfully without being as aggressive as Ohio.”

West Virginia is more lenient in targeting inactive voters than Ohio. Among other things, it requires counties in the year following a presidential election to mail an address confirmation to people who have not voted in any election during the previous four years.

Julie Archer of the watchdog West Virginia Citizen Action Group said the process appears to be working as it should.

“There is not a need to do something more aggressive,” she said.

‘Massive statewide purge’

The controversy over Ohio’s approach arose from apparently conflicting mandates in the National Voter Registration Act, which became law in 1993. It requires states to maintain accurate voter registration lists but also says they should protect against inadvertently removing properly registered voters.

Since 1994, Ohio has used voters’ inactivity after two years — encompassing one federal election cycle — to trigger a process that could lead to removal from the voter rolls. That process has been used under both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state, but groups representing voters did not sue until 2016, under current Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

The legal action followed what the lawsuit called “a massive statewide purge” of voters in the summer of 2015.

In Pennsylvania, the process isn’t triggered unless people have failed to vote for five years, or two general election cycles. The state has no plans to change that, Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said.

The existing system hasn’t been drawing complaints, said Ray Murphy, a spokesman for Keystone Votes, a liberal coalition that advocates for changes to Pennsylvania election law. But he said the group will watch the Legislature closely for any signs that lawmakers will want to follow Ohio’s more stringent method.

Ballot access is a frequent battleground for Democrats and Republicans, but it’s not always a neatly partisan issue.

In Oregon, for example, Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson last year expanded the period for removing people from the rolls from five years of non-voting to 10 years.

“A registered voter should not lose their voting rights solely because they haven’t participated recently,” he said in a written statement following Monday’s Supreme Court ruling.


GOP Seeks Immigration Accord Under Pressure from Moderates

House Republicans labored to strike an immigration accord Tuesday, the day restive moderates have said they’d move to force future votes on the divisive issue if no compromise is reached. Aides said any deal would likely include provisions changing how immigrant children are separated from their families at the border.

Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, planned to meet with centrist and conservative GOP leaders in hopes of defusing an election-year civil war that leaders worry will alienate right-leaning voters. For weeks, the two factions have hunted ways to provide a route to citizenship for immigrants brought illegally as children to the U.S. and bolster border security, but have failed to find middle ground.

Moderates led by Representatives Carlos Curbelo of Florida and California’s Jeff Denham have said that without an agreement, they would on Tuesday get the 218 signatures — a House majority — needed on a petition that would trigger votes later this month on four immigration bills. They are three names short, but have said they have enough supporters to succeed.

House GOP leaders have tried to derail that rarely used process, asserting those votes would probably produce a liberal-leaning bill backed by Democrats and just a smattering of Republicans. They’ve been trying to craft a right-leaning measure, but the party has long failed to find compromise between centrists with Hispanic and moderate-minded constituents and conservatives whose voters back President Donald Trump’s hardline views.

Any deal is likely to include much if not all of the $25 billion Trump wants to build his proposed wall with Mexico and other security steps. But there have been disagreements over details, such as conservative plans to make it easier to deport some immigrants here legally.

Trump’s recent clampdown on people entering the U.S. illegally has resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their families and a public relations black eye for the administration.

No law requires those children to be taken from their parents. A two-decade-old court settlement requires those who are separated to be released quickly to relatives or qualified programs. Republicans are seeking language to make it easier to keep the families together longer, said several Republicans.

Besides trying to cut a deal on a bill, Ryan and other GOP leaders have been trying to persuade moderate Republicans to not sign the petition. Two Republican aides said that as part of that, party leaders have promised votes later this year on a bill dealing with migrant agriculture workers and requirements that employers use a government online system to verify workers’ citizenship.

The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

Under House procedures, if the moderates’ petition reaches 218 signatures on Tuesday, the immigration votes could occur as soon as June 25. Otherwise, the votes would have to wait until July.

Trump last year terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, though federal court orders have kept the program functioning for now. Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants have benefited from DACA or could qualify for it, and moderates want legislation that would give these so-called Dreamers a way to become legal residents and ultimately citizenship.

Conservatives have derided that step as amnesty for lawbreakers and have resisted providing a special pathway to protect them.

In recent days, talks have focused on proposals that give the Dreamers a way to gain legal status, perhaps making them eligible for visas now distributed under existing programs. Trump has proposed limiting the relatives that immigrants can bring to the U.S. and ending a lottery that provides visas to people from countries with low immigration rates, which could free up some visas.


Thousands of US Asylum Claims in Doubt After Sessions’ Decision

New limitations on asylum imposed by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions could invalidate tens of thousands of pending claims brought by women, children and others fleeing violence in their home countries, according to immigration attorneys.

Sessions on Monday overturned a grant of asylum to a Salvadoran woman whose former husband raped and beat her for 15 years. The decision left immigration lawyers across the United States grappling with how to proceed for their clients.

At least 230,000 of the 711,000 cases before U.S. immigration courts involve asylum petitions from Central America and Mexico, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs U.S. immigration courts.

Attorneys said most claims from this region are based on domestic or gang violence. Those cases will be far harder — if not impossible — to win in light of Sessions’ decision, they said.

In a case known as the “Matter of A-B,” the attorney general revoked a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that carved out special protections for domestic violence victims. The decision narrowed who can qualify for asylum because they were victims of criminal activity, as opposed to government persecution.

“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” the nation’s top law enforcement officer wrote.

Sessions’ action has left immigration lawyers uncertain about the next steps for their cases.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, immigration lawyer Rebecca Kitson said she had about six cases pending that were now in doubt.

One involves a teenager whose father, a minister in El Salvador who traveled between gang territories, was gunned down and died in his arms, she said. The gangs then targeted the boy.

“Can’t change that they are based on gang violence,” Kitson said. “The plan is to keep fighting and hope that appeals and the federal courts will sort it out.”

Challenges considered likely

Sessions’ decision applies to immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which are overseen by the attorney general. Decisions can ultimately be appealed to federal appellate courts, which operate independently, and immigration attorneys say challenges are likely.

Asylum law requires that claims be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Immigrants fleeing domestic and other violence can still seek relief if they can show their persecution was based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a “particular social group.” But the ruling narrowed the definition of what that term means.

Previously, for example, some married women who could not leave abusive husbands were considered a “particular social group.” But Sessions’ decision tossed that definition.

Those with pending cases can amend the basis of their claim while still before an immigration court, though not at the appeals stage. But immigration attorneys say the decision closes off an avenue for relief to some of the most vulnerable immigrants.

Court backlog

At the Dilley, Texas, federal family detention center, the vast majority of the more than 13,000 families served by a legal services project in 2017 were fleeing domestic violence, gang violence or both, according to Royce Murray, policy director at the American Immigration Council. The council is a partner in

the project.

In Boston, immigration attorney Matt Cameron said his office has a hearing scheduled Thursday for a woman who endured years of physical violence from the father of her children. He said the case would have had a strong likelihood of success — before the Sessions decision.

“This person had been through a lot of counseling, a lot of preparation. … It took a long time to get her to the point where she could actually talk about it,” he said. “Now you have to tell them they don’t even have a case anymore.”

Sessions has vowed to reduce the court backlog, which reached 711,000 pending immigration cases in May. A Department of Justice spokesman said Monday’s decision will allow cases “to be more effectively and quickly adjudicated.”


US Vows to Find, Punish Citizenship Cheaters

The U.S. government agency that oversees immigration applications is launching an office that will focus on identifying Americans who are suspected of cheating to get their citizenship and seek to strip them of it.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna told The Associated Press in an interview that his agency is hiring several dozen lawyers and immigration officers to review cases of immigrants who were ordered deported and are suspected of using fake identities to later get green cards and citizenship through naturalization.

Cissna said the cases would be referred to the Department of Justice, whose attorneys could then seek to remove the immigrants’ citizenship in civil court proceedings. In some cases, government attorneys could bring criminal charges related to fraud.

Coordinated effort

Until now, the agency has pursued cases as they arose but not through a coordinated effort, Cissna said. He said he hopes the agency’s new office in Los Angeles will be running by next year but added that investigating and referring cases for prosecution will likely take longer.

“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” Cissna said. “What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

He declined to say how much the effort would cost but said it would be covered by the agency’s existing budget, which is funded by immigration application fees.

The push comes as the Trump administration has been cracking down on illegal immigration and taking steps to reduce legal immigration to the U.S.

Immigrants who become U.S. citizens can vote, serve on juries and obtain security clearance. Denaturalization, the process of removing that citizenship, is very rare.

Citizenship revoked

The U.S. government began looking at potentially fraudulent naturalization cases a decade ago when a border officer detected about 200 people had used different identities to get green cards and citizenship after they were previously issued deportation orders.

In September 2016, an internal watchdog reported that 315,000 old fingerprint records for immigrants who had been deported or had criminal convictions had not been uploaded to a Department of Homeland Security database that is used to check immigrants’ identities. The same report found more than 800 immigrants had been ordered deported under one identity but became U.S. citizens under another.

Since then, the government has been uploading these older fingerprint records dating back to the 1990s and investigators have been evaluating cases for denaturalization.

Earlier this year, a judge revoked the citizenship of an Indian-born New Jersey man named Baljinder Singh after federal authorities accused him of using an alias to avoid deportation.

Authorities said Singh used a different name when he arrived in the United States in 1991. He was ordered deported the next year and a month later applied for asylum using the name Baljinder Singh before marrying an American, getting a green card and naturalizing.

Authorities said Singh did not mention his earlier deportation order when he applied for citizenship.

Entered a new chapter

For many years, most U.S. efforts to strip immigrants of their citizenship focused largely on suspected war criminals who lied on their immigration paperwork, most notably former Nazis.

Toward the end of the Obama administration, officials began reviewing cases stemming from the fingerprints probe but prioritized those of naturalized citizens who had obtained security clearances, for example, to work at the Transportation Security Administration, said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University law school.

The Trump administration has made these investigations a bigger priority, he said. He said he expects cases will focus on deliberate fraud but some naturalized Americans may feel uneasy with the change.

“It is clearly true that we have entered a new chapter when a much larger number of people could feel vulnerable that their naturalization could be reopened,” Chishti said.

Since 1990, the Department of Justice has filed 305 civil denaturalization cases, according to statistics obtained by an immigration attorney in Kansas who has defended immigrants in these cases.

The attorney, Matthew Hoppock, agrees that deportees who lied to get citizenship should face consequences but worries other immigrants who might have made mistakes on their paperwork could be targeted and might not have the money to fight back in court.

Cissna said there are valid reasons why immigrants might be listed under multiple names, noting many Latin American immigrants have more than one surname. He said the U.S. government is not interested in that kind of minor discrepancy but wants to target people who deliberately changed their identities to dupe officials into granting immigration benefits.

“The people who are going to be targeted by this, they know full well who they are because they were ordered removed under a different identity and they intentionally lied about it when they applied for citizenship later on,” Cissna said. “It may be some time before we get to their case, but we’ll get to them.”


New Disclosure Shows Growing Kushner Wealth, Debt

Financial disclosure forms released late Monday show that White House special adviser — and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law — Jared Kushner’s wealth and debt both appear to have risen over the year, an indication of the complex state of his finances and the potential conflicts that confront some of his investments.

 

Disclosures issued by the White House for Kushner and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, showed that Kushner held assets totaling at least $181 million. His previous 2017 disclosure had showed assets in at least the $140 million range. Kushner and Ivanka Trump, jointly held at least $240 million in assets last year.

 

The financial disclosures released by the White House and filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics routinely show both assets and debts compiled in broad ranges between low and high estimates, making it difficult to precisely chart the rise and fall of the financial portfolios of federal government officials.

 

The White House released the disclosures for Kushner and Ivanka Trump on a heavy news day, while the world’s media lavished attention on President Trump’s preparations to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un for talks over nuclear weapons. The White House had released the president’s own financial report last month.

 

A spokesman for the couple said Monday that the couple’s disclosure portrayed both assets and debts that have not changed much over the past year — and stressed that Kushner and Ivanka Trump have both complied with all federal ethics rules.

 

“Since joining the administration, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have complied with the rules and restrictions as set out by the Office of Government Ethics,” said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for the couple’s ethics lawyer, Abbe Lowell. “As to the current filing which OGE also reviews, their net worth remains largely the same, with changes reflecting more the way the form requires disclosure than any substantial difference in assets or liabilities.”

 

One of Kushner’s biggest holdings, a real estate tech startup called Cadre that he co-founded with his brother, Joshua, rose sharply in value. The latest disclosure shows it was worth at least $25 million at the end of last year, up from a minimum value of $5 million in his previous disclosure.

 

The bulk of Ivanka Trump’s assets — more than $50 million worth — was contained in a trust that holds her business and corporations. That trust generated over $5 million in revenue last year.

 

She reported a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., worth between $5 million and $25 million. The hotel has been a focus of lawsuits against the president and ethics watchdogs who say Trump is violating the Constitution by profiting from his office as diplomats spend big money there.

 

The disclosure also showed that Kushner has assumed growing debt over the past year, both expanding his use of revolving lines of credit and taking on additional debt of between $5 million and $25 million as part of his family company’s purchase last year of a New Jersey apartment complex.

 

A series of interim financial reports last year showed that Kushner had increased lines of credit with Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Signature Bank, each from at least $1 million to $5 million. Such moves do not mean that Kushner has yet accumulated that debt, but has the ability to do so.

 

The new disclosure shows that Kushner did take on a new debt last year with Bank of America worth between $5 million and $25 million — but jointly with other investors in Quail Ridge LLC, a company used for his family firm’s purchase of Quail Ridge, a 1,032-unit apartment community in Plainsboro, N.J., near Princeton. The disclosures also showed that Ivanka Trump owns an interest in that purchase through a family trust.

 

The disclosure showed that Kushner reported making at least $5 million in income from the development since Kushner Companies bought the complex in September. The family business has made a splash with high-profile deals for buildings in New York City in the past decade, but lately has been returning to its roots by buying garden apartments in the suburbs.

 

Under an ethics agreement he signed when he joined the administration in early 2017, Kushner withdrew from his position as CEO of Kushner Companies. But even as a passive investor, he retains many lucrative investments — which ethics critics have warned could raise conflicts of interest.



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