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Tag: jared kushner

Washington Post Urges Jan. 6 Subpoenas For Ivanka And Kushner

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Washington Post editorial board is calling on the Democrats' January 6 select committee to subpoena Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

"Top of the list is precisely what then-President Donald Trump did before, during and after the attack," they wrote in a Tuesday op-ed. "How did he prepare his speech preceding the insurrection, in which he told the crowd to fight? What did he anticipate his audience's reaction would be? When did he know the pro-Trump mob was threatening the Capitol?"

The board added: "Answering such questions calls for subpoenaing former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; and other White House aides with useful information."

According to a recent book by Washington Post journalists Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Ivanka Trump attempted to calm the former president down on the day of January 6, encouraging him to call off the violent riot – a request Trump repeatedly rebuffed.

"I'm going down to my dad. This has to stop," she reportedly told her aides while spending "several hours walking back and forth" from the Oval Office in an effort to defuse the situation.

The Post's editorial board also called on the select committee to investigate a number of top Trump allies in Congress, including Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), all of whom, the Post reports, may have interacted with Trump on the day of the insurrection. McCarthy, who voted in favor of overturning the 2020 election, has been adamantly opposed to the Democratic-backed select committee and has often downplayed Trump's role in the insurgency. However, back in February, just a month after the riot, CNN reported that Trump and McCarthy had gotten into a "shouting match" over the former president's refusal to tell the rioters to stand down.

"Well, Kevin," Trump told McCarthy over the phone. "I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

"Who the f--k do you think you are talking to?" the lawmaker responded.

CNN also reported that Rep. Tuberville spoke with Trump on the day of the riot, calling the former president via phone to announce that Mike Pence, the former vice president, had been evacuated in time to avoid the violent horde.

The phone call has since come under scrutiny in the light of Trump's tweet attacking Pence less than ten minutes after the call.

It's not clear whether Rep. Brooks spoke with Trump on the day of the riot. However, the Alabama lawmaker did deliver a White House-approved speech during the "Stop the Steal" rally just outside the Capitol building, where he bandied Trump's election lies and told Trump's supporters: "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names."

Brooks has since personally disavowed the riot.

The Post editorial board also argued that lawmakers should put the leaders of far-right extremist groups on the stand – particularly leaders "at the center of the violence" – as well as Justice Department and Capitol Police officials who "failed to anticipate the riot."

Months after the riot, it was reported in various media that the Pentagon had denied multiple requests to deploy the National Guard, even as the chaos was unfolding. Capitol Police also reportedly had extensive intelligence that there would be violence on January 6, but the former Capitol Police chief dismissed the concerns as alarmist.

Former NY Observer Editor, Pardoned by Trump, Faces New Charges

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ken Kurson, a former editor of the New York Observer newspaper who was pardoned in January by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, was criminally charged on Wednesday by Manhattan prosecutors with spying on his former wife by accessing her computer.

Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said Kurson used spyware from computers at the Observer and elsewhere between September 2015 and March 2016 to obtain his wife's passwords and access her Gmail and Facebook accounts.

Kurson, who was divorcing his wife around that time, also anonymously disseminated some of her private Facebook messages, Vance said. The Observer was once owned by Trump's son-in-law and Kurson's friend Jared Kushner.

Kurson, 52, of South Orange, New Jersey, was charged with eavesdropping and computer trespass, both felonies carrying a maximum four-year prison term. Kurson is a political consultant and former speechwriter for Trump's former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

A lawyer for Kurson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn last October charged Kurson with cyberstalking three people, at least one of whom he blamed for the breakdown of his marriage.

Though Trump's pardon ended that case, U.S. presidents cannot pardon people for state crimes.

"We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York," Vance said in a statement.

In announcing the pardon in January, Trump's White House said the federal probe of Kurson began only because of his reported nomination to the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kurson was the Observer's editor in chief from 2013 to 2017. The newspaper endorsed Trump for president in 2016.

Another pardon recipient, former 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was separately charged by Vance with mortgage fraud and other crimes, but that case was dismissed in February on double jeopardy grounds.

In July, Vance charged Trump's family business, the Trump Organization, and its chief financial officer with running a "sweeping" 15-year tax fraud. Both pleaded not guilty.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

Flood Of Scathing New Books  Angers Trump And Unnerves His Aides

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former President Donald Trump isn't very pleased about the onslaught of harsh new books and memoirs documenting his chaotic presidency, but there is just one problem with his disapproval.

According to Politico, Trump actually conducted interviews for each book being released. The publication noted that Trump agreed to conduct interviews thinking it would put a "positive spin" on the books being developed. In fact, Trump even sat down with the Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender and author Michael Wolff, two authors who have been at the center of scathing reports this week documenting excerpts from their books.

Per Politico:

"Eager to put his own positive spin on the books, Trump agreed to sit down with a parade of reporters at Mar-a-Lago. That included interviews with Bender, author Michael Wolff, ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman, and Jeremy Peters, among others."

While the Trump administration worked tirelessly to keep a lid on some of the fires the former president had caused, all of that is about to change now because books are hitting shelves all across the United States.

However, Trump reportedly is not the only one concerned about the release of the books. His former officials and advisors are also unnerved by what could be divulged in the coming weeks. In particular, many Trump officials have expressed deep concern about the books that will be released by actual members of the Trump administration like Kellyanne Conway, former counselor to the president, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The publication reports: "Fear is mounting, too, about the tea-spilling to come. In particular, Trump officials are anxiously awaiting the books set to be published by actual colleagues, chief among them counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner, who plan to write their own accounts of the Trump presidency."

"I think it's fraught right now as to who is telling the truth," said a Trump adviser. "They're all trying to go back in time and curate their own images."

One former Trump administration official also admitted to being surprised that some of the more interesting details remain unreported until the books are released.

"I know that there are still a lot of major excerpts that will come out in the future," said a former senior administration official who participated in multiple book interviews. "The most interesting thing to me is how much the big scoops actually hold until publication."

Here’s Who Got Rich From Trump’s Disastrous Response To The Pandemic

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Now that we're all unmasking and the economy seems set to roar into the 2020s, what will we remember about how disastrously, how malignantly, the Trump administration behaved as the pandemic took hold? And will anyone be held to account for it?

The instinct to forget pandemics, as I've pointed out when it came to the 1918 "Spanish flu," has historically been strong indeed. In these years, the urge to forget official malfeasance and move on has, it turns out, been at least as strong. Washington's failure to investigate and bring to account those who led the nation and ultimately the world into the folly of the Iraq War may be the most egregious recent example of this.

In the end, that's why I wrote my new book Virus — to memorialize a clear and accessible historical record of the deliberate and deadly decision-making that swept us all into a kind of hell. I had the urge to try to stop what happened to us from being instantly buried in the next round of daily reporting or, as appears likely now, relegated to the occasional voluminous government or foundation report on how to do things better.

In the early months of 2020, as rumors of distant death morphed into announcements of an imminent pandemic, followed by a patchwork of state and local lockdowns, most Americans were too stunned by daily events to absorb the bigger picture. Memories of those days still click by like surreal snapshots: prepper shopping, toilet-paper hoarders, forklifts moving bodies into refrigerated trucks, and a capricious leader on TV night after endless night talking about quack cures, his own ratings, and how he "liked the numbers low." Meanwhile, he left desperate states to compete with each other for badly needed protective gear.

What looked like chaos or ad hoc decision-making by an improbably elected fraudster president was, in fact, deeply rooted in ideology; specifically, in the belief that the job of the government was neither to exercise leadership, nor activate government agencies to assist the American people. It was to promote private industry and its profits as the solution to anything and everything pandemic.

That ideology led to profiteering, politicized science, and mass death. Now, as the pandemic wanes (at least for the time being, though not necessarily for the unvaccinated) in this country, it deserves an investigation. Somewhere between almost 600,000 and more than 900,000Americans have died so far from Covid-19, a significant number of those deaths unnecessary, as even the former administration's medical expert, Dr Deborah Birx, has said.

The virus arrived in America after the Trump administration — steered by right-wing Heritage Foundation policy wonks and their donor-class comrades — had already laid waste to key agencies like Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control. Their instant response to the pandemic was to similarly sideline government emergency-management experts, put inexperienced 20-something volunteers in charge of finding and distributing protective gear, and circulate lists of possible suppliers — one of whom, typically enough, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur with no medical contracting experience, snagged a cool $86-million contract from the state of New York for ventilators he would never deliver.

While most of the country hunkered down in a state of stunned paralysis, a faction of Trumpworld recognized the pandemic not for what it took away — human lives and livelihoods — but for what it offered. The chaos of the moment allowed them to road-test their dream system, to prove once and for all that the forces of supply and demand, the instinct to make a buck, could do a better job managing a natural disaster than the government of the United States and its bureaucrats.

Is any of this likely to be investigated? Will anyone be held accountable for what appears to have been a response deliberately mismanaged by religious zealots and crony capitalists, crews equally cynical about expertise, science, and the government's ability to prevent or ameliorate disaster?

What We Don't Know About The Trump Pandemic Disaster

Here, as a start, is a rundown of where inquiries into that disaster now stand.

Buried in the alphabet soup of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act is the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), established in March 2020 to keep track of the federal money (by now $5.5 trillion) that was to be spent on the pandemic. It's a consortium of agency inspector generals, headed by Michael Horowitz, a career Department of Justice lawyer. His name will be familiar to anyone who followed the Trump-Russia investigations. He produced a report in 2019 that — to the dismay of Trump's supporters — failed to conclude that the FBI had begun investigating connections between Vladimir Putin's Russia and the Trump campaign without legal cause and as a political dirty trick.

PRAC is authorized to conduct oversight of pandemic-related emergency spending of any sort. Its inspector generals have already issued nearly 200 pandemic-related oversight reports and charged 474 people with trying to steal more than $569 million. (Details in its quarterly reports are available online.)

While PRAC has been genuinely nonpartisan in its acts, its focus so far has been on the small fry of the pandemic era, not the truly big fish. In its most recent semi-annual report, for example, it makes clear that 55 percent of its charges had to do with fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program and 40 percent were related to fraudulent unemployment assistance claims. Among the bigger PRAC successes: charging a Texas man in a $24-million Covid-relief fraudulent loan scheme last October and seven men in another fraud scheme in which they used their ill-gotten pandemic gains to buy, among other things, a Porsche and a Lamborghini.

The CARES Act also authorized the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to monitor the federal response to the pandemic. Its most recent semi-annual report included 16 recommendations in selected public-health areas like testing, vaccines, and therapeutics, only one of which has so far been implemented. A source at the GAO told me that a report on some contracting irregularities can be expected this summer.

So far, such government self-assessments have shown little appetite for dealing with the true cronyism, profiteering, and disastrous politicization of the federal pandemic response by Trump's minions. Among the schemes begging for a deeper look is Operation Airbridge. Led by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it was an attempt to use federal funds to underwrite the air-shipping costs of private companies in an effort to speed the delivery of the kinds of personal protective equipment that were in such short supply last spring. That unorthodox effort included large no-bid contracts granted to a small group of private health-care companies without restrictions on pricing or even on where the desperately needed products were to be delivered.

In the spring of 2020, as hospital workers began popping up on social media and network news programs clad only in garbage bags and makeshift or reused face masks, sometimes in tears and pleading for help, the White House maintained its focus on private enterprise as the way out of the disaster. The administration called for volunteers to staff what would become another public/private bonanza, the White House Covid-19 Supply Chain Task Force, also helmed by Trump family fixer, Jared Kushner.

We don't know what, if anything, Kushner's group actually accomplished. The audacity of the former administration's disregard for federal rules and regulations coupled with the scale of the no-bid contracts they issued certainly attracted political pushback at the time. Democrats and civil-society groups in Washington filed requests for more information about how such contracts had eluded federal guidelines, and where the supplies actually went.

It's possible, however, that we may never know.

Ventilating Money

In April 2020, a group of Democratic senators led by Elizabeth Warren, citing the administration's secrecy, opened an investigation into the operation. They sent a letter to the six Operation Airbridge beneficiary health-care giants — Cardinal Health, Concordance, Henry Schein, McKesson, Medline, and Owens & Minor — requesting explanations for reports of "political favoritism, cronyism, and price-gouging" in the ongoing supply effort. "Taxpayers have shelled out tens of millions of dollars on this secretive project and they deserve to know whether it actually helped get critical supplies to the areas most in need," Warren said that June.

Three of the six suppliers did, in the end, give the senators copies of memorandums of agreement (MOAs) indicating that they "had complete discretion about how to distribute supplies across hotspot counties" and that "nothing in the MOAs appears to prevent a supplier from sending all of its supplies designated for hotspots to just a single customer in one of the hotspots." The government hadn't, in fact, put any kind of conditions on the cost for that protective equipment and the Trump Justice Department would insist that it was none of its business how suppliers arrived at the prices they charged for it.

Using taxpayer funds to grease private enrichment was, of course, a Trump family tradition, going back to the Eisenhower years when Donald's father, Fred, fleeced the government of millions of dollars in loans aimed at housing World War II veterans. Hauled down to Capitol Hill to explain himself, the New York builder was unrepentant, arguing that a loophole in the law allowed for his private gain and, under such circumstances, only a fool would have left all that money on the table.

What, from the outside, came to look like White House inspired chaos — of which Operation Airbridge was just one example — should, in fact, be seen as a deliberate effort to disengage the federal government and leave the blame and the logistics problems to Covid-afflicted states, at the time mostly run by Democrats.

On March 24, 2020, for instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo begged the federal government to help get more ventilators for what was clearly going to be a surge of coronavirus patients. (New York City's health-care system was already overwhelmed by then.) At the time, hooking patients up to ventilators seemed like the best way to go, though doctors later realized that, for many patients, the tricky disease could be foiled earlier with anticlotting and steroid medication.

"How can you have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can't get a ventilator?" asked Cuomo. Three days later, Trump tweeted, "General Motors must… start making ventilators, now! Ford, get going on ventilators, fast!"

Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer for tech firms like Google, tweeted back at the president, "We can supply ICU ventilators, invasive and non-invasive." Within days, he turned up on a list vetted by Kushner's team of volunteers and, at their recommendation, officials in New York closed a deal with him.

The only problem: Oren-Pines had no ventilators and had never been in the medical supply business. When he failed to deliver on the $86 million deal, Wells Fargo froze his account and New York canceled the order, demanding the money back, though by summer 2020, it had yet to collect a final $10 million.

The Great Forgetting?

In addition to making various large or politically well-connected health-care companies far wealthier, the administration also lavished staggering billions on a small group of Big Pharma firms for Operation Warp Speed, the project it backed to develop vaccines and medicines to treat Covid-19. Those contracts, too, were written outside normal government channels and the companies themselves were chosen by a panel of industry insiders without any oversight. Many of them stood to (and did) profit from the soaring stock prices of those firms when the news about clinical trial successes was released.

In November 2020, to launch an investigation into that situation, Senator Warren teamed up with Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) to request copies of all federal contracts for Covid-19 therapeutics and vaccines. "The American people," they stated, "deserve to know that the federal government is using their tax dollars to develop Covid-19 medical products at the best possible price for the public — not to line the pockets of wealthy companies by cutting corners in consumer protection, pricing, and quality."

Warren raised questions about a Department of Health and Human Services deal with Gilead Sciences for the pandemic therapeutic remdesivir (part of the "cocktail" of drugs administered to Donald Trump and other Republican insiders like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani when they got Covid). HHS had indeed acquired a large supply of remdesivir at an exorbitant cost to American taxpayers and Gilead itself would charge American hospitals $3,200 per treatment for it, $860 more than its price in other developed countries.

In addition to Warren, who sent a letter to the administration requesting information on HHS's pricing negotiations with Gilead for the drug, other people also stood up. Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), for instance, filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that Dr. Robert Kadlec, a Trump HHS political appointee, had engaged in multiple schemes to funnel contracts to politically connected companies — and that this had begun even before the pandemic was even a reality. According to Bright, Kadlec then pushed him out of the government, despite the fact that federal law officially protects whistleblowers.

In his complaint, among other things, Bright alleged that in 2017, a Kadlec friend and Big Pharma consultant pressured the agency to maintain a contract with a company owned by a friend of Jared Kushner's, even after an independent review determined it should be cancelled. Bright testified before Congress, and the fate of his whistleblower suit remains to be litigated.

As for the rest of the inquiries, so far, money and power appear to have eluded the investigators. It's unclear whether Senator Warren's and Representative Porter's requests met with any response from the former administration, or even whether they've continued their inquiry into Big Pharma and no-bid contracting. They have made no further announcements and neither office replied to requests for updates.

You won't be surprised to learn, I'm sure, that the name "Jared Kushner" is so far not to be found in GAO or PRAC reports.

The best chance for public accountability — if not legal liability — might be the House of Representatives, especially its Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, launched in April 2020. The Trump administration blew off its subpoenas for former HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-CDC Director Robert Redfield to testify in December 2020, and blocked documents and witnesses related to politicized data, testing, and supply shortages, among other areas of inquiry. But the subcommittee did manage to expose emails from Trump political appointees, revealing efforts to skew CDC data. It is also investigating some whopping no-bid or sole-contractor deals that the former administration cut with preferred businesses. One was a $354-million four-year contract awarded on a non-competitive basis to PHLOW, which was incorporated in January 2020 to manufacture generic medicines to fight Covid. It's the largest contract ever awarded by BARDA and includes a 10-year option worth $812 million.

And the House has continued to seek transparency. According to a Brookings House Oversight Tracker, as of March 2021, 30 percent of congressional oversight letters and 40 percent of its hearings were related to the federal government's pandemic response. But there are signs that the Biden administration, while more cooperative, is not eager to force agencies to comply with requests the previous administration ignored.

My sense is that the emergency created by the insurrection at the Capitol last January and the desperate need of the new Biden administration to have palpable policy achievements in order to do well in election 2022 has taken the steam out of any inclination to dig deeper into the profiteering, cronyism, political scheming, and chaos with which the Trump administration met the Covid-19 virus. It went far deeper than an article like this can possibly indicate, leaving so many hundreds of thousands of potentially unnecessary deaths in its wake.

Think of it as a memory hole, still brimming with schemes and money.


Nina Burleigh, a TomDispatch regular, is a journalist of American politics and the author of six previous books. Her seventh, Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic(just published by Seven Stories Press) is a real-life thriller that delves into the official malfeasance behind America's pandemic chaos and the triumph of science in an era of conspiracy theories and contempt for experts.

Judge Rules Against Kushner Companies In Massive Tenant Lawsuit

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

It's been six years since Dionne Mont first saw her apartment at Fontana Village, a rental housing complex just east of Baltimore. She was aghast that day to find the front door coming off its hinges, the kitchen cabinet doors stuck to their frames, mouse droppings under the kitchen sink, mold in the refrigerator, the toilet barely functioning and water stains on every upstairs ceiling, among other problems. But she had already signed the lease and paid the deposit.

Mont insisted that management make repairs, but that took several months, during which time she paid her $865 monthly rent and lived elsewhere. She was hit with constant late fees and so-called "court" fees, because the management company required tenants to pay rent at a Walmart or a check-cashing outlet, and she often couldn't get there from her job as a bus driver before the 4:30 p.m. cutoff. She moved out in 2017.

Four years later, Mont has received belated vindication: On April 29, a Maryland judge ruled that the management company, which is owned by Jared Kushner's family real estate firm, violated state consumer laws in several areas, including by not showing tenants the actual units they were going to be assigned to prior to signing a lease, and by assessing them all manner of dubious fees. The ruling came after a 31-day hearing in which about 100 of the company's current and former tenants, including Mont, testified.

"I feel elated," said Mont. "People were living in inhumane conditions — deplorable conditions."

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh brought the consumer-protection case against Westminster Management, the property-management arm of Kushner Companies, in 2019 following a 2017 article by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine on the company's treatment of its tenants at the 15 housing complexes it owned in the Baltimore area, which have served as profitable ballast for a company better known for its gleaming properties in New York. The article revealed the company's aggressive pursuit of current and former tenants in court over unpaid rent and broken leases, even in cases where tenants were in the right, as well as the shoddy conditions of many units.

To build its case, the attorney general's office subpoenaed records from the company and solicited testimony from current and former tenants, who provided it via remote video link to Administrative Law Judge Emily Daneker late last year.

In her 252-page ruling last week, which was first reported by the Baltimore Sun, Daneker determined that the company had issued a relentless barrage of questionable fees on tenants over the course of many years, including both the fees identified in the 2017 article and others as well. In more than 15,000 instances, Westminster charged in excess of the state-maximum $25 fee to process a rental application.

In more than 28,000 instances, the company also assessed a $12 "agent fee" on court filings against tenants even though it had incurred no such cost with the courts — a tactic that Daneker called "spurious" and which brought the company more than $332,000 in fees. And in more than 2,600 instances, the Kushner operation assessed $80 court fees to tenants at its two complexes within the city of Baltimore, even though the charge from the courts was only $50. "The practice of passing court costs on to tenants, in the absence of a court order," Daneker wrote, "was deceptive."

The manifold fees suggested a deliberate strategy to run up tenants' tabs, Daneker wrote, repeatedly calling the practices "widespread and numerous." She concluded that "these circumstances do not support a finding that this was the result of isolated or inadvertent mistakes."

Daneker also found that the company violated consumer law by failing to have the proper debt-collection licenses for some of its properties and by misrepresenting the condition of units being leased to tenants. However, she found that the attorney general's office did not establish that the company violated the law in several other areas, such as by misrepresenting its ability to provide maintenance on units or in some of its calculations of late fees.

Kushner Companies, which has since sold some of the complexes and put others of them on the market, declined to be interviewed for this article. A statement from Kushner general counsel Christopher Smith suggested that the ruling amounted to a victory for the company, despite the judge's many findings against it. "Kushner respects the thoughtful depth of the Judge's decision, which vindicates Westminster with respect to many of the Attorney General's overreaching allegations," Smith said.

In previous statements, the company had alleged that Frosh, a Democrat, had brought the suit for political reasons, and was singling out the company owned by the then-president's son-in-law for a host of practices that the company said were common in the multi-housing rental industry. In her ruling, Daneker stated that she found no evidence of an "improper selective prosecution" in the suit.

The attorney general's office declined to comment, noting that the case is not yet final. Each side will next have the chance to file exceptions, as objections are known, that will be considered by the final arbiter in the consumer protection division of the attorney general's office. The state's lawyers will also propose restitution sums for tenants and a civil penalty. Once the consumer protection arbiter issues a ruling, both sides will have the right to challenge it in the state's appeals courts.

Also awaiting resolution is a separate class-action lawsuit brought by tenants that alleges, among other things, that the company's late fees exceeded state limits. A Court of Special Appeals judge has yet to issue a ruling following a January oral argument on the plaintiffs' appeal of previous rulings against both their attempt to certify themselves as a class and against the substance of their claim regarding late fees.

Despite the drawn-out process, including a three-month delay because of the pandemic, former tenants took satisfaction in the first judicial affirmation of their accounts of improper treatment. Kelly Ziegler, an orthodontic assistant, lived for two years in Highland Village, just south of Baltimore. She also didn't get to see her unit before she moved in, in 2015, and was confronted with a litany of problems: a leak from the tub into the kitchen, a loose bedroom window that she worried her young child might fall out of, and a roach infestation so bad that she couldn't use her stove. After some neighbor kids rolled a tire into her yard to use as a swing, she was fined $250 with no warning. "They did a lot of petty stuff," she said.

But when she asked to break her lease over the problems with the house, management warned her that they would take her to court. She finally got out of the lease in 2017.

When the attorney general's office approached Ziegler over her case, she was eager to share her experience. But when she found out that the complex was owned by President Trump's son-in-law, she started to worry she would face repercussions for speaking out. "It made me scared that I was doing something wrong. This is a person with power," she said. She said that her grandmother tried to reassure her: "You don't have anything to worry about. You've done nothing wrong."

Kushner has of course since left the White House and moved to Florida. Ziegler now lives with her family on a dead-end street in southwest Baltimore. It's near a high-crime strip where, not long ago, a 17-year-old friend of her daughter was fatally shot. But Ziegler is still glad to be out of Highland Village, out of Kushner's reach.

"I hope I don't run into him," she said.

Ivanka And Jared Lead Trumpsters In New 'Policy Institute' Grift

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

On April 13, Axios reported the launch of America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit self-described "research institute" with a $20 million budget and a roster of staffers drawn from among figures involved in scandal after scandal during Donald Trump's one term in the White House.

Axios said that the organization's mission is to continue and spread Trump's policies.

The list of former Trump administration figures involved with the institute is long as it begins its work, according to its website, to "conduct research and develop policies that put the American people first." The site also says, "Our guiding principles are liberty, free enterprise, national greatness, American military superiority, foreign-policy engagement in the American interest, and the primacy of American workers, families, and communities in all we do."

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

Although they are not officially listed on the group's list of staffers, Axios' Mike Allen reports that Trump and her husband, Kushner, will serve as "informal advisers" to the organization. Both served in her father's administration as senior White House officials.

Like her father, Ivanka Trump during her time in the White House made millions of dollars in personal profit through business dealings involving the Trump Organization.

Among the highlights of her tenure as official adviser to her father were her hosting of an event on human trafficking that was boycotted by advocates who called them "a photo op"; her response to a question about her father's separation of immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border that the policy was "not part of my portfolio"; and her advice to people who'd lost their jobs during the pandemic to "find something new."

When her father was sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James for misusing funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to pay off business debts and promote his presidential campaign and was forced to pay a $2 million settlement, the attorney general's office announced, "Another stipulation ensures that Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump received training on the duties of officers and directors of charities so that they cannot allow the illegal activity they oversaw at the Trump Foundation to take place again."

Donald Trump tasked Kushner with coordinating the states' response to the coronavirus pandemic, a haphazard and poorly organized process that resultedin shortages of vital equipment as thousands of Americans were dying. Yet even as the death toll passed 58,000 on its way to more than 562,000 to date, Kushner appeared on Fox News and described his work as a "great success story."

Trump also put Kushner in charge of negotiating a Middle East peace plan, which resulted in an 80-page proposal and a map that was almost immediately rejected by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who called it "nonsense."

Brooke Rollins

Rollins, the president and CEO of America First Policy Institute, served as acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. In that role, she helped develop Trump's response to protests against racist police brutality: an orderthat referred to "instances in which some officers have misused their authority" and did nothing to address the systemic nature of police violence against Black people and other people of color.

Paula White-Cain

White-Cain is listed, on a page of America First Policy Institute's website that features Maya Angelou's advice "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," as chair of the institute's Center for American Values.

White-Cain is a preacher of the Christian "prosperity gospel," the belief that God rewards believers with wealth, who served as Trump's spiritual adviser during his time in the White House. Among her speeches during that time were her prayer for Trump in 2019:

Lord, we ask you to deliver our president from any snare, any setup of the enemy ... Any persons [or] entities that are aligned against the president will be exposed and dealt with and overturned by the superior blood of Jesus. ... we come against the strongmen, especially Jezebel, that which would operate in sorcery and witchcraft, that which would operate in hidden things, veiled things, that which would operate in deception.

Linda McMahon

Linda McMahon, who led the Small Business Administration under Trump, is the chair of the board of America First Policy Institute.

Emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request showed that the Small Business Administration under McMahon held an event in 2017 at Trump's hotel in Washington, D.C., and instructed staffers to avoid letting on where the event was being held.

Larry Kudlow

Kudlow is vice chair of America First Policy Institute's board and chair of its Center for American Prosperity. He served as director of the National Economic Council in the Trump administration.

Kudlow is notorious for, among other things, his declaration in Feb. 2020 that the COVID-19 outbreak had been "contained" in the United States and that the situation was "pretty close to airtight." A month later, he advised Americans to "stay at work," despite the extremely dangerous risk of viral transmission in offices.

Pam Bondi

Bondi serves as chair of America First Policy Institute's Center for Law and Justice. A former Florida attorney general, Bondi was part of the defense team in Trump's first impeachment trial.

Bondi declined to prosecute Trump's for-profit university for fraud in 2013 despite dozens of complaints from Florida residents. At the same time, she received a donation from Trump for her reelection campaign. Trump eventually paid out $25 million in a settlement with students who said he had duped them.

As an adviser to Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, Bondi promoted lies about election fraud as it became clear that Trump was going to lose. She claimed without any evidence that "fake ballots" were cast for Joe Biden in Pennsylvania and that there was "evidence of cheating."

Jack Brewer

Brewer, a former member of the organization Black Voices for Trump, serves as chair of the institute's Center for Opportunity Now.

In August 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed insider trading charges against Brewer, alleging that he sold stock shares after receiving information that their value would drop.

In a speech that same month at the Republican National Convention, Brewer falsely claimed that Trump hadn't called white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 "very fine people."

Keith Kellogg

Kellogg served as acting national security adviser to both Trump and Mike Pence. He is the co-chair of the institute's Center for American Security.

In November 2019, Kellogg said of his involvement in a phone call during which Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, "I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns."

Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Perry, who served as Trump's secretary of energy, is listed as the chair of the institute's Center for Energy Independence.

As secretary of energy, Perry pressured the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz to install one of his former political donors on its board of directors.

After Texas suffered dangerous blackouts during a major winter storm earlier this year, Perry said residents of the state would rather "be without electricity" than allow the federal government to impose more regulations on energy delivery.

John Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe, the co-chair of the institute's Center for American Security, represented Texas' 4th Congressional District in the House and was a staunch defender of Trump, later serving as his director of national intelligence.

Ratcliffe withdrew his first nomination for the position in 2019 after it emergedthat he had inflated his resume and lied about his role in convicting terror suspects when he was a federal prosecutor.

As director, Ratcliffe strategically released portions of intelligence assessments with the intent of harming Democrats.

The New York Times reported in 2020 that then-CIA director Gina Haspel opposed Ratcliffe's declassification of material out of concern that it "could jeopardize spies' ability to gather intelligence and endanger their sources."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Inside Ivanka And Jared’s Ethics-Free Money Machine

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Despite the pandemic, which took a toll on many businesses across the United States, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner reportedly made substantial profits during their time working for the U.S. government under former President Donald Trump's administration.

According to a report published by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the affluent couple's final financial disclosure reports, which cover the duration of 2020 up to Jan. 20, 2021, signal monetary profits of "$23,791,645 and $120,676,949 in combined outside income."

The analysis also highlights a number of questionable aspects of Trump's disclosure reports that center on "fixed guaranteed payments she arranged to receive from a few entities to prevent a situation in which she would have a stake in their performance while she worked in the White House."

CREW reports:

Starting in 2018, Trump began receiving annually $100,000 from T International Realty LLC, $800,000 from TTT Consulting LLC, and $600,000 from TTTT Venture LLC. In her latest financial disclosure report, however, she reported receiving an extra $62,500 from TTTT Venture LLC and only $362,500 from TTT Consulting LLC. While the extra income from TTTT Venture LLC could be explained by the longer reporting period covered by her annual/termination report, it is not clear why she received less than half of the $800,000 guaranteed payment from TTT Consulting LLC in her final year working for the government.

As for Kushner's financial disclosure report, CREW noted that although the former White House senior advisor had committed to selling his $25 to $50 million stake in Cadre over conflict of interest due to his work for the government, "the Office of Government Ethics withdrew the certificate of divestiture related to his plans to sell his interest in the company in June 2020," per his request.

Kushner also unveiled "Kushner Companies BVI Limited," a new company he has formed offshore in the British Virgin Islands. The publication reports that it appears the new offshore company, which is one of many for Kushner, was formed in an effort to restructure some of his assets.

The latest reports come as former President Donald Trump, as well as his family business, faces a number of pending investigations into potential fraud and tax evasion.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner took no salaries from the government, according to previous disclosures; advisers of their status tend to make around $183,000 a year. But their decision to forgo this payment isn't necessarily a good thing, from an ethics perspective. Government workers are typically expected to make their money from the government itself so that they aren't improperly influenced by or dependent on outside entities while doing work for the American people. Kushner and Ivanka Trump could only choose to decline their salaries because they had so much income and wealth from other sources.

"Ivanka's Choice": A Morality Play In One Act


Scene 1: The Kushner home in the tony Kalorama neighborhood of Washington. Cardboard boxes lie around the living room. The shelves are bare.

IVANKA: Daddy was so sure about Mike Pence. It was all going to go so smoothly. And I can't stand that Kimberley for another minute. Did you see her in the tent before the rally? Dancing to "Gloria." Hate that song.

JARED: I tried to convince him to tell those people to stop. He was watching it on TV upstairs. It took hours.

IVANKA: I know you did, honey. I know you tried.

JARED: We both tried.

IVANKA: Both of us. We're such a good team. Did the Secret Service tell you when the moving van is coming?

JARED: Soon, darling.

IVANKA: I can't believe how Daddy got us into this situation. I tweeted that those people were "American patriots" and had to delete it. So embarrassing. They really are worse than deplorable. So low class.

JARED: That's not your fault. All those people who quit should look to you as an example. Speaking of classy. Stephanie Grisham? Really, can you believe the ingratitude? You heard what my father said: Your father is "beyond our control." We did our best. We all did. We'll all keep trying.

IVANKA: I'm glad you had your father say that. But don't tell Daddy I said that. It was good that Daddy gave your father that pardon before, dear. But is it enough to help us? Your father saying "beyond our control," does "our" include me, even after the tweet?

JARED: Always includes you.

IVANKA: Everything was set up perfectly for my Senate campaign in Florida. Then this. There's no problem with the Israeli and Emirati loans that you arranged for the business, right?

JARED: Whatever else happens, don't worry, I've done it all.

IVANKA: I'm so sorry I couldn't be there for the dedication of the courtyard at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The Kushner Garden of Peace. So proud of you.

JARED: It includes you, sweetheart.

IVANKA: Don't you think I can still run in Florida? Little Marco, not so loyal to Daddy. Won't be forgiven. Did you call Brad? I can't believe that meltdown he had. No shirt on the street? Did his wife really need to call the police? We picked up his electronics, right? He can still run the campaign?

JARED: Maybe pay him for some data piece of it. How much did he get from your father's campaign before he blew up? I had to remove him after that rally in Tulsa where no one showed.

IVANKA: Daddy was so angry.

JARED: Nobody in the media even talks about how those K-Pop TikTok fans gamed the tickets. Probably cost us the election.

IVANKA: Brad's arrest, so trashy. All those cars and condos he bought with our money. But you've called him, right?

JARED: Don't worry, the base in Florida is under our control. Why shouldn't you win? Rubio is such a little ingrate.

IVANKA: When I'm a senator, this will all be behind us. I'll be Hillary. And Daddy will have his library. Did you speak to MBS about that library contribution?

JARED: I'm doing everything, it's all taken care of.

IVANKA: I can always count on you, honey. Just amazing. In the library there should be a whole exhibit devoted to everything you've done. More than a garden in a courtyard.

A Secret Service Agent enters:

SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Sorry to interrupt, but the van is here. I wonder if I could use the bathroom for a moment.

Scene 2: Office of the Manhattan District Attorney, One Hogan Place, New York City

CYRUS VANCE, JR.: Thank you for appearing here today, Mrs. Kushner. I want to be completely transparent with you and present you with your options.

IVANKA: Nice to see you again, Cy.

VANCE: As you know, in 2012 a case was assembled by the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of this office that you and your brother Donald Trump, Jr. had misled prospective buyers of units in the Trump Soho hotel and condo development, inflating financial figures to lure those buyers. We had dozens of emails as evidence. One witness said there was "no doubt" that you and your brother "approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales," and "They knew it was wrong." Your attorney argued that you had exaggerated the numbers but had done nothing illegal. I decided that it was not beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed, and the case was dropped.

IVANKA: You did the right thing.

VANCE: We have a new situation. In reviewing your father's tax returns serious questions have emerged about your role in a variety of projects. I can tell you that there is no reasonable doubt about your involvement and jeopardy.

IVANKA: Jeopardy? What is this, a game show?

VANCE: It's "Let's Make A Deal."

IVANKA: Making fun of The Art of the Deal. Not funny, Cy.

VANCE: I would prefer that you were a witness rather than indicted.

IVANKA: This is Soho all over again. It's nothing.

VANCE: I would not like to have you do a perp walk. So, here's the deal—I will grant you immunity in exchange for your testimony.

IVANKA: We're talking here about transactional immunity, not limited use.

VANCE: You drive a hard bargain.

IVANKA: I am my father's daughter.

VANCE: You must make a choice. You must provide testimony against either your father or your husband.

IVANKA: How is Jared part of this?

VANCE: Our probe has expanded. Your father or your husband.

IVANKA: What about Melania?

VANCE: She is not a subject of my investigation. The 2017 inaugural committee financial irregularities are being investigated by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Your father or your husband.

IVANKA: That's so outrageous, Cy. I'm so disappointed in you.

VANCE: You must decide now.

IVANKA: You know my heart belongs to Daddy.

Scene 3. The Kushner home on Indian Creek Island in Florida. Ivanka enters. Jared embraces her.

JARED: Guess what? I have a surprise for you. Brad's here to discuss your campaign.

IVANKA: Shabbat shalom.

Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel and All the Powers of Earth. His play, This Town, about a scandalous White House dog, was produced in 1995 by LA TheatreWorks. He is also the author of Epstein's Ghost and The Pardon, both one-act plays published previously here.