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samurai_sarah

Ivanka and Jared 2: Tarnished Gold

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Quote

Lowell added that the changes would “not affect Mr. Kushner’s ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the president.”

I don't get it. If he doesn't need super secret information when he does whatever he is doing, why did he access it to begin with?

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GreyhoundFan

"Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage"

Spoiler

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter. 

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said. 

It is unclear if any of those countries acted on the discussions, but Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance, the officials said.

Kushner’s interim security clearance was downgraded last week from the top-secret to the secret level, which should restrict the regular access he has had to highly-classified information, according to administration officials.

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perception of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Within the White House, Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him, the current and former officials said.

They could also have legal implications. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has asked people about the protocols Kushner used when he set up conversations with foreign leaders, according to a former U.S. official.

Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel, said one former White House official. 

Kushner has an unusually complex set of business arrangements and foreign entanglements for a senior White House aide, experts have said. But his behavior while in office has only drawn more scrutiny and raised concerns that he would be unable to obtain a final security clearance, which he needs to perform the many jobs Trump has entrusted to him, from negotiating foreign trade deals to overseeing a Middle East peace process. 

“We will not respond substantively to unnamed sources peddling second-hand hearsay with rank speculation that continue to leak inaccurate information,” said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer.

White House officials said McMaster was taken aback by some of Kushner’s foreign contacts.

“When he learned about it, it surprised him,” one official said. “He thought that was weird...It was an unusual thing. I don’t know that any White House has done it this way before.”

The official said that McMaster was “not concerned but wanted an explanation. It seemed unusual to him.”

In the months since, McMaster and Kushner have worked to coordinate so that the National Security Council is aware of Kushner’s contacts with foreign officials and so Kushner has access to the council’s country experts to prepare for meetings.

“General McMaster has the highest regard for Mr. Kushner and the two work well together,” said NSC spokesman Michael Anton. “Everything they do is integrated...it’s seamless.”

Foreign governments routinely discuss ways they can influence senior officials in all administrations. 

“Every country will seek to find their point of leverage,” said one person familiar with intelligence intercepts of foreign officials discussing Kushner. 

But Kushner came to his position with an unusually complex set of business holdings and a family company facing significant debt issues.

A Mexican diplomatic source said that Kushner “has remained strictly professional” in his dealings with the country, “with both sides looking after their interests but trying to find common ground.” 

Officials from the UAE identified Kushner as early as the spring of 2017 as particularly manipulable because of his family’s search for investors in their real estate company, current and former officials said.

Officials at the embassies of China, Israel and the UAE did not respond to requests for comment.

Kushner’s lack of a final security clearance has drawn scrutiny in recent weeks. He had an interim clearance that gives him access to information at the top-secret level, as well as more highly classified information, such as the president’s daily intelligence briefing. But the application for his final clearance dragged on for more than a year. The downgrading of his interim clearance from top secret to secret was first reported by Politico.

On Feb. 9, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein alerted White House Counsel Don McGahn that significant issues would further delay Kushner’s security clearance process, according to four people familiar with their discussions. 

Kushner has repeatedly amended a form detailing his contacts with foreign persons. Not fully disclosing foreign contacts ordinarily would result in a clearance being denied, experts said. 

On Friday, Trump said White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly would make a final decision on whether Kushner would continue to have a security clearance.

During 2016, Kushner was simultaneously running his family business, Kushner Cos., and helping to oversee Trump’s campaign. One of his top business concerns was what to do with his family’s investment in 666 Fifth Ave. in New York, which the company bought under his direction for $1.8 billion in 2007, the highest price paid at the time for a U.S. office tower. The purchase became troubled as the Great Recession hit, and Kushner refinanced it, leaving the company with a $1.2 billion debt that comes due in January 2019.

The Manhattan property has been a particularly nettlesome problem inside the government because Kushner’s company has sought foreign money on the project. 

Kushner and his company had proposed a redevelopment plan that would double the building’s size, requiring major new investment. Before Trump took office, Kushner and other company officials explored several options for the financing. They met with an executive of a Chinese-run insurance company, Anbang, which had bought the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. They also discussed a possible investment by the former finance minister of Qatar, who oversaw an investment fund. But after Kushner served as Trump’s senior adviser for a few months in the White House, questions arose about potential conflicts of interest, the financing talks ended, and neither Anbang nor the Qatari fund signed on.

Thomas Barrack, a close Trump friend who asked the Qataris to consider investing in the Fifth Avenue property, has told The Washington Post that the refinancing efforts were “crushed” because Kushner’s move to the White House “just about completely chilled the market, and [potential investors] just said, ‘No way — can’t be associated with any appearances of conflict of interest,’ even though there was none.”

 Questions have also been raised about whether Kushner discussed financing with a Russian banker. Kushner met in December 2016 with Sergey Gorkov, the top executive of Vnesheconombank. The bank has said they talked about “promising business lines and sectors,” but Kushner told Congress that the meeting did not involve any discussion about his family’s company.

Kushner, upon entering the White House, divested his stake, which is now controlled by family members. With the deadline for the $1.2 billion debt looming, the company has continued to search for a lender. The redevelopment plan appears to be on hold after the company’s main partner, Vornado, run by Trump friend Steve Roth, deemed it “not feasible.”

 Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, who plays a major role at the company, told The Post in a recent interview that he and the firm have not been contacted by Mueller. The company, which is privately held, has stressed that the Fifth Avenue property is a small fraction of its assets and that it is doing well financially. 

 

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hoipolloi

Speaking as someone who had a security clearance back in the dark ages (before the internet), being in debt was a huge red flag.  A large debt a the time of the initial background investigation would definitely have been a bar to getting a clearance, even a lower level one like Confidential. If you incurred a large debt after getting a clearance, you were expected to disclose that fact promptly or at least during subsequent regular reviews. 

Kushner is in debt for tens of millions, possibly more, due to various real estate ventures, notably the purchase of 666 Fifth Ave in NYC for nearly 2 billion dollars.

The US Dept of State has posted an FAQ on how it handles security clearances. Note the following:

Quote

Various reasons exist for why someone may be denied a security clearance. The most important factors in an investigation are the individual's honesty, candor, and thoroughness in the completion of their security clearance forms. Every case is individually assessed, using the National Security Board's 13 Adjudicative Guidelines, to determine whether the granting or continuing of eligibility for a security clearance is clearly consistent with the interests of national security. 

The adjudicative guidelines include: allegiance to the United States; foreign influence; foreign preference; sexual behavior; personal conduct; financial considerations; alcohol consumption; drug involvement; emotional, mental, and personality disorders; criminal conduct; security violations; outside activities; and misuse of information technology systems. [Emphasis added]

Kushner should NEVER have been given a clearance of any kind in the first place. End of story.

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GreyhoundFan

From Jennifer Rubin: "Jared Kushner has been humiliated. Will Trump now throw him under the bus?"

Spoiler

Jared Kushner should be very nervous. Rather than take heat for protecting his son-in-law, President Trump left the disposition of Kushner’s security clearance up to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. On Tuesday, Kelly dealt Kushner a humiliating setback. The Post reports:

Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Trump, had his security clearance downgraded Friday, sharply limiting his access to some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets amid concerns raised by the ongoing investigation of his background, two White House officials said Tuesday.

Kushner was one of several White House officials who received a memo Friday announcing that because of their interim security clearances, their status was being downgraded from the “Top Secret/SCI” level to the “Secret” level, a far lower level of access to classified information.

It was never clear why Kushner reportedly requested more access to intelligence materials than any other White House official outside the National Security Council, but whatever the reason, the power that comes with access to information has now been sharply curtailed. (“Friday’s downgrade represents a significant loss of access for Kushner, who routinely attended classified briefings, received access to the President’s Daily Brief intelligence report and issue[d] requests for information to the intelligence community.”) The move also raises questions as to why Kushner wasn’t granted a permanent clearance (Was it Russia? His ongoing financial woes? Omissions on his request for a top-secret clearance?). Moreover, it is important to establish the level of risk he posed while he operated on an interim clearance for more than a year.

“The fact that a compromised individual who is a huge potential blackmail target had consistent access to our nation’s most closely held secrets for more than a year is just unconscionable,” Max Bergmann, a former State Department official now at the Center for American Progress, tells me. “If this was any other administration, Kushner would have been out long ago. Anyone else would not be allowed back in the White House.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, news surfaced on Tuesday hinting at just how great a liability Kushner may be for the president. The Post reports:

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.

This should come as no surprise given Kushner’s retention of his business holdings (Trump didn’t bother divesting himself, so why should he force Kushner to do so?) and his mounting financial woes. (This comes on top of previous news that Kushner met during the transition with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank.) “China, the UAE, Russia and reportedly Qatar and Turkey all present issues of split loyalties, indebtedness and simply too much contact with bad actors for someone who sees Top Secret [information] everyday,” says former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi. “Why is he still there when you and I would have totally been denied all access to both Secret and Top Secret?” He adds, “It remains to be seen how long he can maintain an Interim Secret level clearance and we are on new ground here with the length of an interim even at Secret level when such substantive issues still exist.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that one or more White House officials have the long knives out for Kushner. According to The Post:

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perceptions of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Within the White House, Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him, the current and former officials said.

There are several takeaways from the latest revelations.

First, the reason Kushner was denied a clearance is critical and goes to whether he should be in the White House at all. Three Democratic congressmen — Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (Md.) put out a written statement:

It’s about time that the security needs of our country were put ahead of the nepotism of President Trump and his willingness to have unqualified individuals in the White House. The fact that, for over a year, unqualified individuals around the President were permitted high levels of classified information access is astonishing, and we will continue to press the Administration for answers to these and other national security questions. While downgrading Jared Kushner’s security clearance is a good first step, it does not go far enough. Mr. Kushner should not have any type of clearance so long as his application remains under review for security concerns.

Second, it is stunning that Kushner has been in the White House for so long. If not for the Rob Porter scandal, attention might never have focused on Kushner — or on Kelly’s negligence in allowing him access to the president’s daily intelligence briefing for so long.

Norm Eisen, counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed suit seeking to challenge Kushner’s security clearance, remarks, “It is shocking that this was not done long ago, as is highlighted by the allegations that multiple countries attempted to exploit Kushner’s financial desperation, ego and naïveté.” He argues, “Now his days on the job should be numbered. Kushner may assert that he can do his job with a downgraded security clearance but, having worked in the White House and in diplomacy, I think that is false. He will be hampered in his work. He will have to get up and leave some meetings where highly classified documents or information need to be discussed, or cannot even attend them in the first place.”

Third, Trump’s decision not to intercede on Kushner’s behalf should set off alarm bells in the Kushner household. If Trump is not inclined to go out on a limb to protect Kushner’s security clearance, would he risk a firestorm by, for example, pardoning Kushner if he is ever indicted? It seems more likely that Trump, if push comes to shove, will protect himself and claim ignorance (truthfully or not) of Kushner’s business conflicts and any inappropriate contacts with Russians. One might conclude that from Trump’s perspective, Kushner is expendable.

Finally, once more we see the downside of Trump’s failure to abide by norms that have guided presidents of both parties (e.g., don’t hire unqualified relatives for top posts). We also see the consequences of Republicans’ refusal to take their oversight responsibilities seriously with regard to massive conflicts of interest for the entire Trump clan. In the end, Republicans’ indulgence of Trump and his family may prove to be the president’s undoing. Had Trump at the outset been forced to separate himself from his financial holdings and require Kushner to do the same, Trump might have avoided what we now have — the appearance of a corrupt family more akin to a Third World autocracy than a democratic government.

We don’t know whether Kushner traded influence for financial gain. We don’t know whether he had any role during the campaign in soliciting help from or working in concert with Russians to sway the election, although he did attend — along with Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. — the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. We do know that he has turned into a liability for his father-in-law. He shouldn’t count on any help from one of the least altruistic men ever to occupy the Oval Office.

 

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GrumpyGran
5 minutes ago, GreyhoundFan said:

From Jennifer Rubin: "Jared Kushner has been humiliated. Will Trump now throw him under the bus?"

  Reveal hidden contents

Jared Kushner should be very nervous. Rather than take heat for protecting his son-in-law, President Trump left the disposition of Kushner’s security clearance up to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. On Tuesday, Kelly dealt Kushner a humiliating setback. The Post reports:

Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Trump, had his security clearance downgraded Friday, sharply limiting his access to some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets amid concerns raised by the ongoing investigation of his background, two White House officials said Tuesday.

Kushner was one of several White House officials who received a memo Friday announcing that because of their interim security clearances, their status was being downgraded from the “Top Secret/SCI” level to the “Secret” level, a far lower level of access to classified information.

It was never clear why Kushner reportedly requested more access to intelligence materials than any other White House official outside the National Security Council, but whatever the reason, the power that comes with access to information has now been sharply curtailed. (“Friday’s downgrade represents a significant loss of access for Kushner, who routinely attended classified briefings, received access to the President’s Daily Brief intelligence report and issue[d] requests for information to the intelligence community.”) The move also raises questions as to why Kushner wasn’t granted a permanent clearance (Was it Russia? His ongoing financial woes? Omissions on his request for a top-secret clearance?). Moreover, it is important to establish the level of risk he posed while he operated on an interim clearance for more than a year.

“The fact that a compromised individual who is a huge potential blackmail target had consistent access to our nation’s most closely held secrets for more than a year is just unconscionable,” Max Bergmann, a former State Department official now at the Center for American Progress, tells me. “If this was any other administration, Kushner would have been out long ago. Anyone else would not be allowed back in the White House.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, news surfaced on Tuesday hinting at just how great a liability Kushner may be for the president. The Post reports:

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.

This should come as no surprise given Kushner’s retention of his business holdings (Trump didn’t bother divesting himself, so why should he force Kushner to do so?) and his mounting financial woes. (This comes on top of previous news that Kushner met during the transition with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank.) “China, the UAE, Russia and reportedly Qatar and Turkey all present issues of split loyalties, indebtedness and simply too much contact with bad actors for someone who sees Top Secret [information] everyday,” says former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi. “Why is he still there when you and I would have totally been denied all access to both Secret and Top Secret?” He adds, “It remains to be seen how long he can maintain an Interim Secret level clearance and we are on new ground here with the length of an interim even at Secret level when such substantive issues still exist.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that one or more White House officials have the long knives out for Kushner. According to The Post:

H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perceptions of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings, according to the current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Within the White House, Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him, the current and former officials said.

There are several takeaways from the latest revelations.

First, the reason Kushner was denied a clearance is critical and goes to whether he should be in the White House at all. Three Democratic congressmen — Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (Md.) put out a written statement:

It’s about time that the security needs of our country were put ahead of the nepotism of President Trump and his willingness to have unqualified individuals in the White House. The fact that, for over a year, unqualified individuals around the President were permitted high levels of classified information access is astonishing, and we will continue to press the Administration for answers to these and other national security questions. While downgrading Jared Kushner’s security clearance is a good first step, it does not go far enough. Mr. Kushner should not have any type of clearance so long as his application remains under review for security concerns.

Second, it is stunning that Kushner has been in the White House for so long. If not for the Rob Porter scandal, attention might never have focused on Kushner — or on Kelly’s negligence in allowing him access to the president’s daily intelligence briefing for so long.

Norm Eisen, counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed suit seeking to challenge Kushner’s security clearance, remarks, “It is shocking that this was not done long ago, as is highlighted by the allegations that multiple countries attempted to exploit Kushner’s financial desperation, ego and naïveté.” He argues, “Now his days on the job should be numbered. Kushner may assert that he can do his job with a downgraded security clearance but, having worked in the White House and in diplomacy, I think that is false. He will be hampered in his work. He will have to get up and leave some meetings where highly classified documents or information need to be discussed, or cannot even attend them in the first place.”

Third, Trump’s decision not to intercede on Kushner’s behalf should set off alarm bells in the Kushner household. If Trump is not inclined to go out on a limb to protect Kushner’s security clearance, would he risk a firestorm by, for example, pardoning Kushner if he is ever indicted? It seems more likely that Trump, if push comes to shove, will protect himself and claim ignorance (truthfully or not) of Kushner’s business conflicts and any inappropriate contacts with Russians. One might conclude that from Trump’s perspective, Kushner is expendable.

Finally, once more we see the downside of Trump’s failure to abide by norms that have guided presidents of both parties (e.g., don’t hire unqualified relatives for top posts). We also see the consequences of Republicans’ refusal to take their oversight responsibilities seriously with regard to massive conflicts of interest for the entire Trump clan. In the end, Republicans’ indulgence of Trump and his family may prove to be the president’s undoing. Had Trump at the outset been forced to separate himself from his financial holdings and require Kushner to do the same, Trump might have avoided what we now have — the appearance of a corrupt family more akin to a Third World autocracy than a democratic government.

We don’t know whether Kushner traded influence for financial gain. We don’t know whether he had any role during the campaign in soliciting help from or working in concert with Russians to sway the election, although he did attend — along with Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. — the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. We do know that he has turned into a liability for his father-in-law. He shouldn’t count on any help from one of the least altruistic men ever to occupy the Oval Office.

 

This has got to be a tough one for Dump. I think by holding back now he's punishing J-red for being stupid. And not a good business man. But ultimately he'll hand out the clearance after making his point and insuring that J-red is well aware of his standing.

He can't upset Daughter Barbie. If stupid J-red weren't married to her there's no way in hell he ever would have gotten near the WH.

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fraurosena
4 minutes ago, GrumpyGran said:

This has got to be a tough one for Dump. I think by holding back now he's punishing J-red for being stupid. And not a good business man. But ultimately he'll hand out the clearance after making his point and insuring that J-red is well aware of his standing.

He can't upset Daughter Barbie. If stupid J-red weren't married to her there's no way in hell he ever would have gotten near the WH.

I don't think it's going to be that tough for him. He'll just ignore the whole situation, and things will simply go on as before. Remember, nobody in that WH did a thing about this whole security clearance thing before the Rob Porter debacle. None of them really gives a damn, unless the press gets a hold on it and starts reporting on it.

Jared will be in the WH for as long as the presidunce is, or until Jared or princess decides they want out. Not one minute before.

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hoipolloi
28 minutes ago, fraurosena said:

Jared will be in the WH for as long as the presidunce is, or until Jared or princess decides they want out. Not one minute before.

Afraid this is very true.

NONE of them -- and this includes Kelly, the so-called adult in the office -- care anything about who should or shouldn't see classified material. 

The Oval Office is absolute traitors' nest, filled with people who only want to advance their personal interests by using any means possible, even illegal ones. Nothing else matters to them. 

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GrumpyGran
3 hours ago, hoipolloi said:

filled with people who only want to advance their personal interests by using any means possible,

and then sit around the lobby of the Trump Hotel discussing all of the information they learned today while the foreigners at the next table listen in.

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GreyhoundFan

"Is Jared Kushner using the White House as his own personal boardroom?"

Spoiler

President Trump's decision to put his assets into a not-so-blind trust led to myriad concerns about possible conflicts of interest. The biggest early flash points in the debate over using the White House for personal gain, though, have been decidedly focused on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The New York Times reported Wednesday night that the Kushner family real estate company obtained two large loans totaling more than $500 million from companies whose executives met with Kushner at the White House last year. One was from Apollo Global Management for a Chicago skyscraper, while the other was from Citigroup for some Brooklyn office buildings. In the former case, the executive, Joshua Harris, also spoke with Kushner about a White House job that never materialized.

Kushner's legal team says he played no role in securing the loans. The lenders say standard processes were followed, with Citigroup emphasizing that a relationship existed before Kushner joined the White House. And the Kushner Companies suggested the Times was struggling to connect dots. “Stories like these attempt to make insinuating connections that do not exist to disparage the financial institutions and companies involved,” a spokeswoman said.

But why even take part in the meetings? Why open yourself up to even suspicions of self-dealing when it involves a lender that does business with your family company?

Harris was advising the White House on infrastructure policy, to be sure, but the fact that he and Kushner went so far as to discuss a White House job for Harris suggests they didn't just happen to be in the same room. And then it's Harris's company that happens to give the Kushners a big loan.

This isn't even the first time this week that Kushner's fast-and-loose style in the White House has come up. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Kushner for a time was speaking with foreign leaders without running the contacts through the National Security Council. And national security adviser H.R. McMaster found out from intelligence reports that at least four countries had discussed ways in which to manipulate Kushner via his complex business dealings, financial difficulties and inexperience.

Somewhat similarly, during the transition period Kushner attempted to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin, according to intercepts of the Russian ambassador. And he met during that same period with a Russian banker tied to the Kremlin, without disclosing the meeting.

Early in the Trump administration, Kushner's sister pitched Chinese investors on the Kushner properties by pointing to the prospect of what's known as an investor visa — a fast-track process for wealthy investors to gain residency in the United States by investing $500,000. The program had just been extended by Trump in a bill he had signed. Kushner's sister presented herself to investors by noting her familial relationship with the senior White House adviser. The family later apologized for doing so. Despite that apology, CNN found two businesses working with the Kushners continued to use his name in sales pitches to Chinese investors.

Looming in the background of all of these are the Kushners' readily apparent struggles to obtain cash for a troubled investment at 666 Fifth Ave. in New York, for which $1.2 billion in debt comes due in January. Deals with Qatari and Chinese investors have fallen through, though the same Qatari government investment fund whose deal fell through is a top investor in Apollo's real estate trust.

All of this is clearly of interest in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation — and has been for months. And he surely knows a lot more than we do right now.

If you look up shady in the dictionary, there is a picture of Jared.

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GreyhoundFan

"Exclusive: FBI counterintel investigating Ivanka Trump business deal"

Spoiler

(CNN) US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.

It's standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation. But the complexity of the Trump Organization's business deals, which often rely on international financing and buyers, presents a challenge.

The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.

The development -- a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa -- opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office.

The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia's wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family's Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump's June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property.

The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers.

In the case of Vancouver, it's not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal. The timing of the deal -- as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office -- could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny.

Since Kushner took on his role as senior adviser to President Trump, officials in countries including China have discussed ways to use Kushner's web of business deals to manipulate him, according to The Washington Post.

"CNN is wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application," said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics counsel. "Nothing in the new White House policy has changed Ms. Trump's ability to do the same work she has been doing since she joined the Administration."

Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said, "the company's role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units."

White House spokesman Raj Shah declined to comment on Ivanka Trump's security clearance. The FBI declined to comment. The Holborn Group did not respond to requests for comment.

For the Trumps, deal-making is a family affair. The developer in Vancouver, Tiah, bonded with Donald Trump Jr. But Ivanka Trump played a key role in getting the deal off the ground in 2013, two years before Trump officially launched his presidential bid.

Tiah flew to New York for a meeting at Trump Tower. In the board room featured on The Apprentice, they hammered out the contours of the deal.

"One of the senior vice-presidents pulled me aside and said: 'Joo Kim, it's really important in your presentation that you connect with Ivanka. In other words: no one else is in the room, you have to understand that," Tiah recalled at the October 2015 launch of a "Trump Luxe" VIP service for condo residents. "In that meeting, it was clearly just me and Ivanka talking about the project," he recalled.

After an agreement was reached, Ivanka Trump recalled at the same event that she worked closely with Tiah: "We were working on a lot on the design elements and really forming the vision."

"Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project," Tiah added.

Holborn is backed financially by Tony Tiah Thee Kian, chairman of TA Enterprise, which controls several other businesses. The elder Tiah has a checkered business history, including securities laws violations and false statements to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, according to the Malaysia's Securities Commission. Joo Kim is the face of Holborn.

As with other Trump properties, the Vancouver tower easily attracted foreign buyers. The Vancouver Sun reported last year that one of the buyers in the project has links to the Chinese government.

While it is not known whether Ivanka Trump's business deals are of interest to the special counsel's investigation, Mueller has been examining her husband's interactions with foreign investors.

Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance amid Mueller's investigation into his contacts with Russians and financial dealings with foreigners. His interim security clearance was downgraded this week from top secret to secret.

Because Ivanka Trump and Kushner are married, concerns that arise during one partner's security clearance investigation could stall or block both of them from receiving a full clearance, according to a US official.

Any information that arises during the FBI's security clearance checks that could be relevant to the special counsel's investigation would be automatically shared, according to a US official.

So far, the first daughter -- one of the President's closest confidants -- has largely managed to escape the glare of the Russia investigation. She has not been called to testify on Capitol Hill. She told NBC she has not met with Mueller for an interview.

"Consistently we have said there was no collusion. There was no collusion," Ivanka Trump said in an interview this week with NBC News. "And we believe that Mueller will do his work and reach that same conclusion."

But her low profile, particularly when it comes to Mueller's investigation, is baffling to some legal experts.

"Why is he not interviewing Ivanka? The answer is, beats me," said Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor who previously worked for Mueller at the Justice Department.

"Either he's just biding his time," Zeldin said, "or he has obtained this evidence elsewhere and he doesn't need her, or he appreciates the possibility of a major eruption were he to do that."

Ivanka Trump accompanied the President as two key events unfolded that Mueller is looking into as part of an obstruction of justice investigation: the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and the misleading statement about the Trump team's meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016.

While it's unclear what role she played in either of those instances, she may have been privy the President's thinking at the time.

Trump's first-born daughter has long served as a trusted adviser, and she and her father often speak several times a day. She worked closely with her father and siblings in the family real estate business and counseled Trump throughout the presidential campaign and transition. She resigned from the Trump Organization in January 2017 and officially joined the White House staff in March.

For the most part, congressional investigators have also shown little interest in speaking with Ivanka, although some have pressed for her testimony.

Last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he'd like to speak with Ivanka Trump. But GOP members of the committee haven't backed his request to interview her.

"I think it would be valuable for her to testify and come before the committee," Schiff said.

I hope Jared's reduction in access impacts Princess.

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onekidanddone
31 minutes ago, GreyhoundFan said:

"Exclusive: FBI counterintel investigating Ivanka Trump business deal"

  Reveal hidden contents

(CNN) US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.

It's standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation. But the complexity of the Trump Organization's business deals, which often rely on international financing and buyers, presents a challenge.

The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.

The development -- a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa -- opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office.

The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia's wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family's Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump's June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property.

The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers.

In the case of Vancouver, it's not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal. The timing of the deal -- as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office -- could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny.

Since Kushner took on his role as senior adviser to President Trump, officials in countries including China have discussed ways to use Kushner's web of business deals to manipulate him, according to The Washington Post.

"CNN is wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application," said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics counsel. "Nothing in the new White House policy has changed Ms. Trump's ability to do the same work she has been doing since she joined the Administration."

Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said, "the company's role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units."

White House spokesman Raj Shah declined to comment on Ivanka Trump's security clearance. The FBI declined to comment. The Holborn Group did not respond to requests for comment.

For the Trumps, deal-making is a family affair. The developer in Vancouver, Tiah, bonded with Donald Trump Jr. But Ivanka Trump played a key role in getting the deal off the ground in 2013, two years before Trump officially launched his presidential bid.

Tiah flew to New York for a meeting at Trump Tower. In the board room featured on The Apprentice, they hammered out the contours of the deal.

"One of the senior vice-presidents pulled me aside and said: 'Joo Kim, it's really important in your presentation that you connect with Ivanka. In other words: no one else is in the room, you have to understand that," Tiah recalled at the October 2015 launch of a "Trump Luxe" VIP service for condo residents. "In that meeting, it was clearly just me and Ivanka talking about the project," he recalled.

After an agreement was reached, Ivanka Trump recalled at the same event that she worked closely with Tiah: "We were working on a lot on the design elements and really forming the vision."

"Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project," Tiah added.

Holborn is backed financially by Tony Tiah Thee Kian, chairman of TA Enterprise, which controls several other businesses. The elder Tiah has a checkered business history, including securities laws violations and false statements to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, according to the Malaysia's Securities Commission. Joo Kim is the face of Holborn.

As with other Trump properties, the Vancouver tower easily attracted foreign buyers. The Vancouver Sun reported last year that one of the buyers in the project has links to the Chinese government.

While it is not known whether Ivanka Trump's business deals are of interest to the special counsel's investigation, Mueller has been examining her husband's interactions with foreign investors.

Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance amid Mueller's investigation into his contacts with Russians and financial dealings with foreigners. His interim security clearance was downgraded this week from top secret to secret.

Because Ivanka Trump and Kushner are married, concerns that arise during one partner's security clearance investigation could stall or block both of them from receiving a full clearance, according to a US official.

Any information that arises during the FBI's security clearance checks that could be relevant to the special counsel's investigation would be automatically shared, according to a US official.

So far, the first daughter -- one of the President's closest confidants -- has largely managed to escape the glare of the Russia investigation. She has not been called to testify on Capitol Hill. She told NBC she has not met with Mueller for an interview.

"Consistently we have said there was no collusion. There was no collusion," Ivanka Trump said in an interview this week with NBC News. "And we believe that Mueller will do his work and reach that same conclusion."

But her low profile, particularly when it comes to Mueller's investigation, is baffling to some legal experts.

"Why is he not interviewing Ivanka? The answer is, beats me," said Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor who previously worked for Mueller at the Justice Department.

"Either he's just biding his time," Zeldin said, "or he has obtained this evidence elsewhere and he doesn't need her, or he appreciates the possibility of a major eruption were he to do that."

Ivanka Trump accompanied the President as two key events unfolded that Mueller is looking into as part of an obstruction of justice investigation: the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and the misleading statement about the Trump team's meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016.

While it's unclear what role she played in either of those instances, she may have been privy the President's thinking at the time.

Trump's first-born daughter has long served as a trusted adviser, and she and her father often speak several times a day. She worked closely with her father and siblings in the family real estate business and counseled Trump throughout the presidential campaign and transition. She resigned from the Trump Organization in January 2017 and officially joined the White House staff in March.

For the most part, congressional investigators have also shown little interest in speaking with Ivanka, although some have pressed for her testimony.

Last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he'd like to speak with Ivanka Trump. But GOP members of the committee haven't backed his request to interview her.

"I think it would be valuable for her to testify and come before the committee," Schiff said.

I hope Jared's reduction in access impacts Princess.

Maybe Treason Barbie will finally learn the word complicit 

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fraurosena

I don’t think anyone should presume to know what and/or who Mueller is investigating or not, unless they are part of the investigation.

Mueller is keeping his cards very close to his chest, and rightly so.

For all we know, he is investigating the whole Trump family, including prcious princess. In fact, I would be surprised if he wasn’t.

But, like everyone else, I don’t know that.

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fraurosena

Jared Kushner's real-estate firm sought money directly from Qatar government weeks before blockade.

Quote

THE REAL ESTATE firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner’s father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners’ signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.

The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.

A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person. 

The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.

The Gulf crisis involving Qatar and its neighbors will likely be Kushner’s defining foreign policy legacy. The crisis followed a May visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Kushner and President Donald Trump, who subsequently took credit for Saudi Arabia and its allies’ efforts against Qatar. The fallout has reshaped geopolitical alliances in the region, splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council and pushing Qatar, home to the Middle East’s largest U.S. military base, closer to Turkey and Iran. 

Mohammed Hitme, chief of staff to the Qatari finance minister, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment. White House Spokesperson Hope Hicks referred questions to Kushner Companies, whose spokesperson Christine Taylor said, “We don’t comment on who Charlie meets with.” She added, “We don’t do business with any sovereign funds.” 

THE KUSHNER COMPANIES meetings with the Qataris were held the week of April 24. While Al Emadi was in New York, he appeared on Bloomberg TV to talk about the strategy of the Qatar Investment Authority, or QIA, the nation’s sovereign wealth fund. A host asked Al Emadi about whether the investment fund did business on the basis of geopolitics. Al Emadi answered the only way he could. “I think if you look at what we do in QIA, or in our sovereign wealth fund, it’s purely commercially driven. So we go where we think we’re going to have value,” he said. “We like what we see here. We performed very well in the last two years. The market has been very good to us. And hopefully we can continue the same strategy in the U.S.”

This was not the first time Charles Kushner solicited funds from the Qataris, but it is the first direct pitch known to be made to the minister of finance himself. Notably, the play came after Trump’s election. The Intercept first reported last summer that Charles Kushner had also propositioned Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani, a prominent businessman who previously served as the country’s foreign minister and prime minister. The deal proffered by HBJ, as he is known, was worth $500 million but ultimately fell through when Kushner Companies failed to secure other outside capital. That 2017 effort followed previous entreaties made in the region by Jared Kushner himself.

The news of Kushner Companies’ direct pitch to the Qatari government puts a Wednesday report from the Washington Post into broader context. U.S. intelligence services, the paper reported, had determined that officials in four countries — the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico — had been privately discussing how to use Jared Kushner’s real-estate investments as a way to gain leverage over him in order to influence official U.S. policy.

Kushner has divested from a small portion of Kushner Companies, but has retained substantial ownership. A balloon payment due in 2018 on the badly underwater property at 666 Fifth Avenue has been a ticking clock on the fortunes of the Kushner family, precipitating the global hunt for capital. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the father-son pair, Jared and Charles Kushner, speak on a daily basis.

The New York Times reported last month that just prior to Jared Kushner’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia in May 2017, his family real estate company “received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim,” described as one of Israel’s largest financial institutions.

Reading this you just might conclude that Qatar was punished by Jared for failing to complete the loan to his father, especially since he (Jared) was the one undermining Tillerson's attempts to stop the Saudi blockade of Qatar. 

 

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Howl
2 hours ago, fraurosena said:

Reading this you just might conclude that Qatar was punished by Jared for failing to complete the loan to his father, especially since he (Jared) was the one undermining Tillerson's attempts to stop the Saudi blockade of Qatar. 

Ah, the financial boat anchor that is 666 Fifth Avenue; Kushner Cos is in the process of buying out the minority stakeholder,  Vornado Realty Trust. That Jared can't find "someone" to bail them out of that looming disaster is telling.  The big payment is due in Feb. 2019.  

I hope this puts to rest the idea that businessmen really can run the government. It's painfully, no blatantly obvious that Jared is influence peddling to the Nth degree trying to save the family fortunes. 

Speaking of someone whose fortunes are on the skids and who is deep into the "What a tangled web we weave territory", check out this Josh Marshall Editor's Blog about Paul Manfort's history/timing vis-à-vis Russia/Ukraine, the Trump campaign, the Internet Research Agency going back to 2014 AND noting Putin's geopolitical desires. 

Manafort, The Cinematic Arc of History And The Wildest Coincidence

I remember being shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, when news of Manafort's Ukraine connections were first revealed.  In retrospect, it seems like such an innocent time, when something like that could be, well, shocking.  There's been so much blood under the damn bridge on a daily basis that I'm getting close to being shock proof, or more likely, just totally PTSD shell shocked. 

Edited by Howl

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fraurosena

Jared's WH/business interweaving doesn't end there, either. He also (probably) made this happen:

SEC dropped inquiry a month after firm aided Kushner company

Quote

The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan.

While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

The SEC detail comes a day after The New York Times reported that Apollo’s loan to the Kushner Cos. followed several meetings at the White House with Kushner.

“I suppose the best case for Kushner is that this looks absolutely terrible,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Without presuming that there is any kind of quid pro quo ... there are a lot of ways that the fact of Apollo’s engagement with Kushner and the Kushner businesses in a public and private context might cast a shadow over what the SEC is doing and influence consciously or unconsciously how the agency acted.”

Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue.

The SEC, which often makes such inquiries of financial firms, didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

Apollo said the company founder who met with Jared Kushner did not discuss with him “a loan, investment, or any other business arrangement or regulatory matter involving Apollo.” It added that the Kushner loan to refinance a Chicago skyscraper went through the “standard approval process” and that the founder was not involved in the decision.

Kushner Cos. said in a statement that the implication that Kushner’s position in the White House had affected the company’s relationships with lenders is “without substantiation.”

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Jared Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell, had no comment on the dropped SEC inquiry or whether it was influenced by Kushner’s contacts with Apollo. He added that Kushner has “had no role in the Kushner Companies since joining the government and has taken no part of any business, loans or projects with or for the Companies after that.”

According to the Times report, Kushner also met with the CEO of Citigroup at the White House early last year. Property records show that Citigroup lent $325 million in March to Kushner Cos. and two partners for a collection of buildings in Brooklyn.

Both lenders had important business before the federal government last year, according to lobbying records and regulatory filings. Both Apollo and Citigroup were pushing for tax breaks in the recently passed overhaul, and Citigroup was lobbying for a rollback of some financial crisis regulation.

Combined, the two companies spent nearly $7 million on lobbying last year.

For its part, Citigroup said in a statement that it didn’t deal with Kushner Cos. at all in arranging the loan, and talked instead to one of the Kushner Cos. partners. It added that its CEO was not involved in the transaction and “never discussed it” with Jared Kushner.

Details on the loans, like the interest rates charged, are not publicly available, so it’s unclear whether the Kushner Cos. got any special breaks.

The Kushner family’s biggest holding, a skyscraper on Fifth Avenue, is 30 percent unoccupied and has a $1.2 billion mortgage due early next year. That has fueled speculation that the company needs money, and fast.

But the Kushner Cos. has repeatedly pushed back on depictions that it is anything but in solid financial shape and needs help.

The company said Thursday that linking the loans to Jared Kushner’s meetings at the White House has “nothing to do with reality.”

“Jared does not tell us who he meets with nor do we ask him,” said Kushner Cos. spokeswoman Christine Taylor. “We do not update Jared on what’s going on in our business nor does he ask.”

Regardless, ethics experts said the optics are bad and Kushner should not have been having meetings with Apollo and Citigroup officials while his family business was seeking loans from them.

“I’d never seen anybody come in with a business loan exposure, debt exposure like Trump and Kushner,” said Virginia Canter, a former ethics official in the Obama and Clinton White Houses who is now with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

 

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Aggravated
GreyhoundFan

"The White House chief calligrapher has a higher clearance than Jared Kushner"

Spoiler

Washington (CNN) One of the White House's most important diplomats happens to be an artist -- with a top secret security clearance.

That means the chief White House calligrapher now has greater access to sensitive information than White House adviser -- and President Donald Trump's son-in-law -- Jared Kushner.

Scrutiny over White House clearances in recent weeks has raised questions about top secret versus secret clearance, the application process and the levels of access afforded to those who achieve it.

Kushner was among those White House officials whose security clearance was downgraded from top secret to secret, a significant move cutting back on the information he can access.

But even though Kushner recently lost the level of clearance to know sources and methods, the size of the population with top secret clearances is actually quite large. A 2015 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pegged the total at 2,885,570 people for confidential and secret clearances and 1,363,483 for top secret clearances.

According to information obtained by CNN from a US government official as of November 2017, among those with top secret clearance is White House chief calligrapher Patricia Blair.

The calligrapher's office plays a key role in White House diplomacy. The East Wing, which oversees the calligrapher's office, declined to comment on the role of the chief calligrapher or why a top secret clearance is necessary.

But former chief calligrapher Rick Paulus, who served in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and had a top secret clearance himself, attributed the need for it due to the knowledge of the President's schedule, as well as the calligrapher's proximity to world leaders. When he was a White House calligrapher, Paulus told CNN, he "never, ever dealt with intelligence matters."

The office of the calligrapher began informally in the 1860s when first lady Mary Todd Lincoln delegated the task of writing White House invitations to a staff member, a position that eventually needed an entire staff, according to Matt Costello, a senior historian at the White House Historical Association.

In 1977, Rosalynn Carter formally established the Office of the First Lady, the calligrapher's office falling under the East Wing's social secretary.

As the US emerged as a global economic power beginning in the 1940s, Costello said, there was a "drastic increase" in state dinners at the White House. Those dinners, which included between 140 and 200 people, required handwritten invitations, envelopes, menus and place cards.

The calligrapher's function is intertwined with US diplomacy as the US hosts heads of state, demonstrating that the US is committed to working with or wants to improve relations with other countries.

Ahead of a state dinner, Paulus would delve into the history of the hosted country, its symbols, and its fonts, which calligraphers call "hands" throughout time.

"As calligraphers, we feel like we're playing an integral role. The invitation sets the stage for the whole event. Calligraphers are helping, simply, to set the stage for diplomacy," the former chief calligrapher said.

"Whatever happens, whatever conflicts they have, if you see your name beautifully written on a placard, your nation's flag on a menu, you can't help to soften up a bit," he said. "Protocol is about human interactions, and as calligraphers, it's our job to introduce creativity and beauty."

The sheer volume the office produces is extremely high and gets especially busy during the holiday season. One December alone, Paulus calculated that his office hand addressed 19,000 envelopes.

Over the years, first ladies have taken various levels of interest in the office.

"Hillary Clinton was mostly hands off altogether. Laura Bush was very, very hands on to the point that she'd get into letter styles and looking closely at things," Paulus said of his time.

It's clear that the Trumps, who know the hospitality industry intimately, value the calligraphers; First lady Melania Trump has posted multiple images on her social media accounts highlighting their work.

The office is also responsible for special documents from the President, such as certificates.

This Valentine's Day, the first lady teamed up with the calligraphers to design a special White House valentine, which she distributed during a visit to a children's hospital in Cincinnati.

The calligraphers keep a low profile with rare media access. Martha Stewart featured the office ahead of a state dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair in November 2000, and C-SPAN took a tour while the calligraphers prepared invitations for a state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II in 2008.

While the number of calligraphers in the office has ranged as high as eight at the beginning of the Carter administration, there are currently three full-time calligraphers in the office, including the chief calligrapher. Calligraphers Debra Brown and Becky Larimer do not have security clearances, per the data. White House salary disclosure data indicates that Blair made $102,212 in 2017, with Brown at $90,828 and Larimer at $70,100.

There has been change throughout the years at the office -- for instance, Paulus ushered Macintosh computers into the office in 1998. The deadlines have gotten shorter and aspects of the work has been taken into the digital era. Design and style has also changed over the years.

"I think there's a general misconception that things have been forever unchanging, but the calligrapher's office is one of the places that has changed with the times," Costello said.

The office is currently fully entrenched in preparations for the Trump administration's first state dinner. The President and first lady will welcome President Emmanuel Macron of France to the White House on April 24.

 

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hoipolloi
3 hours ago, Howl said:

the financial boat anchor that is 666 Fifth Avenue

Am I the only one who snickers *every* time when I read "666 Fifth Avenue" -- talk about irony within ironies!

3 hours ago, Howl said:

I hope this puts to rest the idea that businessmen really can run the government.

Preach it, oh preach it, loud and far and wide!

I despise the people who push this totally false idea & would love to see the various privateers who scam government contracts & rip off the taxpayer forced to actually run their own businesses like government.

How many of them would accept the obligation to do 100% of the agreed-upon work, or supply 100% of the products, for 40% of the necessary money? I can tell you how many -- none, nada, zip, zilch, and zero, that's how many.

N.B. - I work part-time for a small business and can tell you that we do NOT agree to do stuff for nothing. I don't know any business that does. If we had to run our business like government is forced to run, it would be game over. So why on earth do people expect government to do the same and somehow get better results?

 

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Howl

I've been checking in on Rick Wilson's blog posts on The Daily Beast, hoping for a new one.   "Rick Wilson is a national Republican political strategist and media consultant based in Florida..." who, it must be said, simply despises Donald Trump and all who enable him.  I'm so glad he has Trump to focus on; I'd hate to see him turn his laser vision and acerbic wit on Democrats.  

He's an awesome, funny and brutal writer and I lurrrrrve reading his blog posts.  His latest, from Feb 27, is about Jared.   The Deep State Takes Out the White House’s Dark Clown Prince   Here are some delectable tidbits for your enjoyment:  

On filling out the form SF-86 for a U.S. government security clearance

Spoiler

It’s even harder when you’re a corrupt, entitled snake who repeatedly lies about your finances to federal investigators and serves as a living, breathing poster child for privileged venality. It’s even harder when you’ve rather clumsily attempted to use both your familial relationship and proximity to the president of the United States to save your family’s failing real-estate empire.

and there's the whole flop sweat and desperation angle

Spoiler

Kushner is a man who needs a billion dollars fast, and is willing to cast shame on the winds to get there. The stench of his venality and desperation hangs around him like stripper perfume, cloying and obvious. Jared all but hiked up his sassy pink petticoats while whistling “Hey, sailor!” to the Chinese, Israeli, Arab, and Russian investors he begged to invest in his failing 666 Fifth Avenue white elephant.

Anyway, Jared is likely toast.  Trump apparently wants Kelly to get Ivanka out of the WH because people are being too mean to her and he wants Jared out because he's an embarrassment and fast becoming a liability.  When numerous foreign governments assess your debt load and start wondering how to capitalize on it, there's a big, big problem that isn't going away. 

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apple1

I agree with @Howl . I have seen Rick Wilson on CNN as a guest. He doesn't have to spend hours thinking about things to sound just like the clips in the post above. That kind of thing just rolls off his mouth, one item after another.

I have to say, even though he is a Republican strategist, his Republican party is not the Trump Republican party. When and where do those like Rick either take back their party, or separate into another party? The ballots are still going to be primarily divided Democrat vs. Republican for the near future (maybe not forever??)

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GrumpyGran
1 hour ago, apple1 said:

When and where do those like Rick either take back their party, or separate into another party?

I don't think there will be a taking back of the party. These lunatics are firmly entrenched now and have pulled all of the basement dwellers out into the open. And I don't think they're going back inside.

So it has to be the end of the Republican party as we know it or a third party. I have to confess that I wouldn't mind if there was never a Republican party ever again and if they are semi-smart they will distance themselves from the name because Donald Trump will always be a Republican president. Fifteen years from now, saying "oh, he wasn't a real Republican" isn't going to work. Sorry, Republicans elected him.

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Howl

@fraurosena has already opened this topic upthread and it seems to be getting traction.  This could turn out to be as big as the Russia story, with more of a financial angle. 

NYT: Mueller Probing Potential United Arab Emirates Influence On White House (One commenter -khyber900 -  in the discussion section of  this article has a very long post that helps tie together what might be going on.  Click here and khyber900 is the second commenter.)  Remember the name Nader. 

And then there's this Editors Blog post from Josh Marshall addressing the potential depth of corruption in this nepotism riddled administration: It's Worse Than We Thought

Here's an excerpt

Spoiler

The most stunning revelation ties to Kushner’s already known role recklessly allying himself with the Gulf states trying to isolate and effectively blockade Qatar. The conflict between UAE and Saudi Arabia and Qatar is complicated and its particulars don’t concern us here. But it was a high-stakes, reckless gambit which could have and still might lead to a major war between various US-allied states in the Gulf. We don’t know enough to make any firm statements yet. But we’ve seen enough in the last week to make it seem plausible that Kushner’s aggressive, enabling behavior in that crisis was tied to his efforts to get money to bail out his family company. If that is true – and I suspect it is – it would amount to a level of corruption entirely unparalleled in American history.

This puts Kushner firmly in the radioactive liability column, big time.  Javanka need to move back to NYC (or North Dakota) and going forward, everyone pretends they didn't know them, does the name seem familiar? don't they buy and sell houses? maybe met at a party somewhere? a luncheon? but we certainly did NOT sit at the same table.  I wonder if this is the real reason Kushner's security clearance was down graded.   

I think the Trump/Kushner arrogance (hey, we're wheeler dealer, high stakes real estate developers, playing at the very highest level of the game.  You couldn't possibly understand) will bring them down.  They people of the US understand the dynamic to be: The business of government is government.  The Trump's understanding:  The business of government is business. 

I'm wondering if, all along, Kushner is in the WH, with getting bailed out of 666 5th Ave as his foremost, single-minded only goal. 

Edited by Howl

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Howl

I was scrolling CNN yesterday and found Kelly McEnany's Ode to Jared epic Kushner tongue bath.  Trust me, this woman leaves no crevice unlicked. 

Jared Kushner is quietly tackling Washington's swamp  By Kayleigh McEnany

I won't even inflict quotes from the article on y'all, but when business people start taking about streamlining processes in government agencies by aggregating and automating services, it will be a cluster f*ck of massive proportions, culminating in a circular firing squad.  I'm not saying it can't be done or it's not a good idea, but the execution is the problem, especially if it's done by letting out a massive, mega-million dollar bid to an outside contractor. 

Texas has tried this streamlining and automating two or three times with various agencies by letting bids to outside contractors, and it has been a total failure and a stunning waste of money.  Like if you had given the $$ directly to the people  the agencies are supposed to have helped, you could have eliminated poverty and health issues for a year. 

 

Edited by Howl

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