Jared Kushner is back in the news, and not in a way he’ll enjoy. The First Son-in-Law was heralded by the President as a jack of all trades, and after joining the administration he was tasked with everything from fueling innovation in American business to solving the Israeli / Palestinian crisis.
Kushner came into the White House after running part of his family’s real estate and investment business empire, The Kushner Companies, said to be worth billions. But since joining the administration, he’s made more headlines getting caught trying to leverage young Jared’s proximity to the presidency than he has for anything he’s accomplished for the average American.
His family business just got more bad news, and this time much closer to home. Pro-Publica reported late Friday that a federal judge ruled against the family in a major class action case involving residential properties they own and operate in Baltimore, Maryland.
U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar ruled that, “Jared Kushner’s family real estate company could not keep secret the identities of its partners in Baltimore-area apartment complexes that are the subject of a class-action lawsuit by tenants.”
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The suit alleges that the late fees and court fees set in motion a vicious cycle in which rent payments are partly put toward the fees instead of the actual rent owed, thus deeming the tenant once again “late” on his or her rent payment, leading to yet more late fees and court fees. Tenants are pressured to pay the snowballing bills with immediate threat of eviction, the suit alleges.
There’s a word for building owners who treat poor tenants like this: Slumlords. Lawyers for the Kushner Companies tried to argue that their investors should remain sealed because Jared’s high profile position in the Trump White House would draw undue and unfair attention in the media. But Judge Bredar shot that defense down.
“The Defendants are no doubt correct that the presence of the Kushner (and therefore Trump) families in this case has raised its profile and attracted significant, though perhaps not ‘unprecedented,’ media attention,” Bedar wrote. “But increased public interest in a case does not, by itself, overcome the presumption of access. In fact, it would logically strengthen it, particularly when the interest is due to the presence of important public figures in the litigation.
“In such an instance,” Bredar continued, “the public’s desire to evaluate the Court’s decision-making is likely augmented. And beyond this apparently inevitable media scrutiny, Defendants have largely relied on ‘vague superlatives’ and insinuations instead of demonstrating specific harms.”
The Kushners have tried everything they could to conceal their investors, and even tried to have the case moved to federal court to do so. But today’s ruling dashed that hope once and form all.
Recent reporting on the Kushner business empire reveal why they’re so worried about revealing their investors. The infamous ‘Paradise Papers’ leaked last fall show how Jared and others tied to Trump are connected to shady Russian and eastern European billionaires.
The Kushners also have business ties to a shady network Chinese and Israeli associates. One of them is Beny Steinmetz, a diamond mine and real estate mogul who is suspected by Israeli officials of money laundering and other crimes.
And these are just the people we know about.
At a time when the president is under investigation for possible collusion with Russians and other shady foreigners, any and all links to people like them will not only have consequences for the Kushners themselves, but could also decide the fate of the presidency.