There’s a new sheriff in town, Jared

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland gave the White House counsel’s office until March 4th to comply with a request to turn over documents and comply with interviews related to how the White House handled security clearances for some of the President’s closest advisers including, of course, Jared Kushner.
I hate to break the news to Jared Kushner. There’s a new sheriff in town. If he were a contestant on the popular TV show “I’ve Got a Secret” which ran in its first run from 1952 – 1967 his secret would be “I used my top-secret clearance to benefit the family business and spent 10 years in prison for it.”
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Cummings wrote to the White House counsel Pat Cipollone “I am now writing a final time to request your voluntary cooperation with this investigation. I ask that you begin producing all responsive documents immediately, and I request that you begin scheduling transcribed interviews with each witness identified by the Committee. I am now writing a final time to request your voluntary cooperation with this investigation. I ask that you begin producing all responsive documents immediately, and I request that you begin scheduling transcribed interviews with each witness identified by the Committee.” Reading between the lines, it sounds like Sheriff Cummings is playing good cop while he stands with the power of his badge and the subpoena authority that goes with it in the holster on his hip.
This comes after the New York Times revealed that President Trump ignored the concerns of White House Chief of Staff General Kelly and White House Counsel, Don McGahn that there were serious questions about whether it was appropriate for Kushner to be granted high-level security clearances. Both felt that it was imperative to document their concern in memos to themselves.
Cummings went on to write “If true, these new reports raise grave questions about what derogatory information career officials obtained about Mr. Kushner to recommend denying him access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets, why President Trump concealed his role in overruling that recommendation, why General Kelly and Mr. McGahn both felt compelled to document these actions, and why your office is continuing to withhold key documents and witnesses from this Committee.”
According to a CNN report:
In one letter from White House counsel Cipollone, the White House argues they are willing to “make available for your review” documents about the White House security clearance process, but says the White House believes Congress doesn’t have the oversight authority to review individual security clearance decisions, given the belief Article II provides the President broad discretion about who he shares information with. Cipollone writes, “the President, Not Congress, Has the Power to Control National Security Information.” In another letter, he urges Cummings to make requests about security clearance information “narrowly focused” and “limited.”
In Cipollone’s letter, he also asks Cummings not to go around the White House counsel’s office to try to obtain information directly from White House staffers. He specifically cites efforts to talk to Kelly.
This is from the Washington Post

“It’s crucial for the appropriate congressional committees to find out the truth of what happened here, and getting hold of these documents it appears would be the best way to do that,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said.

Bookbinder said that House Democrats should try not just to obtain the memos but also to release them, albeit with appropriate redactions. “Ultimately the public needs to know if the president is overriding national security interests based on personal relationships that he has,” Bookbinder said, adding that Democrats should aim for public release of as much information as national security permits, “in the interests of accountability.”

It looks like a major confrontation is brewing between the two houses, White House and the House Oversight Committee. The Committee on Oversight and Reform, the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives which “has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction as well as ‘any matter’ within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees.
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that and the Oversight Committee’s jurisdiction should give pause to Jared Kushner and his father-in-law. (from committee website)

Oversight Responsibilities

The oversight responsibilities of the Committee are set forth in House Rule X, clauses 2, 3, and 4.

House Rule X, clause 2(b), provides that the Committee shall review and study on a continuing basis—

(A) the application, administration, execution, and effectiveness of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction;
(B) the organization and operation of Federal agencies and entities having responsibilities for the administration and execution of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction;
(C) any conditions or circumstances that may indicate the necessity or desirability of enacting new or additional legislation addressing subjects within its jurisdiction (whether or not a bill or resolution has been introduced with respect thereto); and
(D) future research and forecasting on subjects within its jurisdiction.

House Rule X, clause 3(i), provides that the Committee shall “review and study on a continuing basis the operation of Government activities at all levels with a view to determining their economy and efficiency.”

House Rule X, clause 4(c)(1), provides that the Committee shall:(A) receive and examine reports of the Comptroller General of the United States and submit to the House such recommendations as it considers necessary or desirable in connection with the subject matter of the reports;
(B) evaluate the effects of laws enacted to reorganize the legislative and executive branches of the Government; and
(C) study intergovernmental relationships between the States and municipalities and between the United States and international organizations of which the United States is a member.


It seems to me, again as a non-lawyer, that the last paragraph in the list of oversight responsibilities ought to send chills up the collective spines of Trump and associates:
And House Rule X, clause 4(c)(2), provides that the Committee “may at any time conduct investigations of any matter without regard to clause 1, 2, 3, or this clause [of House Rule X] conferring jurisdiction over the matter to another standing committee.”

UPDATE:

A PRESIDENT enjoys a fair amount of discretion when it comes to designating subordinates for access to the nation’s secrets. But reports that President Trump personally intervened to get his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret clearance raise serious concerns that Congress must investigate.

While Mr. Trump’s insular leadership style is hardly suited for the White House, nepotism is not the primary concern in this case. The main worry is that secrets may be shared inappropriately. Mr. Kushner’s clearance was reportedly granted despite the concerns of intelligence officials. The nature of their concern is not entirely clear, though The Post reported last year that the government had received indications that foreign governments were interested in taking advantage of Mr. Kushner’s complex family business arrangements, its financial needs and his lack of foreign policy experience.

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Watchdogs say Ivanka Trump violated federal law

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

An ethics watchdog group asked the Justice Department on Friday to investigate whether President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka violated federal conflict-of-interest law by promoting an Opportunity Zone tax break program from which she could potentially benefit.

The complaint from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington follows an Associated Press investigation last month. The AP found that Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both White House advisers, could benefit from the Opportunity Zones program they pushed that offers tax breaks to developers who invest in downtrodden communities.

AP reported Kushner owns a $25 million to $50 million non-management stake in Cadre, a real estate investment firm which has announced plans to invest in several cities under the Opportunity Zones program. Separately, the couple has interests in at least 13 properties held by Kushner’s family firm that may qualify for the tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York and Maryland.

The CREW complaint says that, under federal law, Kushner’s financial interests are considered of value to Ivanka Trump as well.

In a 12-page letter sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said that as a result of the 2017 decision by Ivanka Trump and Kushner to “retain a sprawling portfolio of investments after entering government,” the couple “assumed responsibility for exercising due diligence to avoid participating in any particular matter that directly and predictably affects the interests of the companies they retained.”

Ivanka Trump, Bookbinder wrote, “may have failed to live up to this responsibility.”

Bookbinder told the AP that CREW’s complaint focused on Ivanka Trump because “there is so much public information about her role in the Opportunity Zones program.”

The AP report noted that Ivanka Trump publicly promoted the program and coordinated with its main congressional sponsor, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. President Trump lauded his daughter last February for “pushing this very hard.” Hours after the AP story ran last month, Ivanka Trump tweeted her public support for Opportunity Zones and appeared at a White House event promoting the program.

AP reported that Kushner also backed the program, but had more limited involvement behind the scenes.

A spokesman for Abbe Lowell, the couple’s ethics lawyer, dismissed the CREW complaint as “meritless.” Ivanka Trump “adheres to the ethics advice she has received from counsel about what issues she can work on and those to which she is recused,” said the spokesman, Peter Mirijanian.

The Justice Department declined to comment, a spokeswoman said.

The White House did not provide a response to the complaint. Last month, administration spokesman Hogan Gidley said the White House had “nothing to do with” the designations of the zones.

The zones, which channel where investments are made, were chosen by state governors and agencies and then approved by Treasury Department officials.

Bookbinder said that if the Justice Department looks into the complaint, it would most likely be probed as a civil matter. But he cautioned that the department is “not obligated to tell us what they’re doing.”
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Did Jared Kushner sell access to the White House?

Federal investigators are looking into whether Jared Kushner’s business talks with foreigners, as his father-in-law Donald Trump assumed the U.S. presidency, later influenced White House policy, NBC News reported on Friday.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked witnesses about Kushner’s attempts to secure financing for his family’s real estate ventures, focusing specifically on his talks with people from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, NBC News said.

NBC cited unnamed people familiar with Mueller’s investigation, as well as witnesses who have been interviewed by Mueller’s team. The special counsel is looking at Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign.

A spokesman for Mueller’s office, Peter Carr, declined to comment on the report.

A spokesman for Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell said the report was the“mischief” of unnamed sources conducting a“misinformation campaign” to mislead the news media.

“Mr. Kushner’s role in the campaign and transition was to be a point person for completely appropriate contacts from foreign officials and he did not mix his or his former company’s business in those contacts,” the spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said in a statement.“Any claim otherwise is false.”

Russia has denied interfering in the election, and Trump has said there was no collusion.

Federal investigators have reached out to Turkish nationals for information on Kushner through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s legal attache office in Ankara, NBC News said.

Qatari government officials who visited the United States earlier this year considered turning over information to Mueller that they believed demonstrated their neighbors in the Gulf were coordinating with Kushner to hurt Qatar, NBC News said, citing four people familiar with the matter.

The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, the individuals told NBC News.

The Qatari embassy in Washington rejected the assertions, saying in a statement late Friday that its government“has not been approached nor has it had any contact with the Special Counsel’s Office on any matters.”

Kushner’s family business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar several times, including last spring, about investing in its troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, but Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund declined, NBC News said, citing two sources familiar with the discussions.

Muller’s team also has expressed interest in a meeting Kushner held at Trump Tower in December 2016 with former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani, people familiar with the meeting told NBC News.

The Kushner Companies’ Fifth Avenue property is facing some $1.4 billion in debt that is due in 2019, NBC News cited the sources as saying. Talks with Qatari officials about investing continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, they said.

After the collapse of talks between Qatar and the Kushner Companies, the White House strongly backed a blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which accused Qatar of backing terrorism. Kushner has played a major role in Middle East policy.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that officials from the UAE, China, Israel and Mexico have talked privately about ways to manipulate Kushner using his business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience. The Post report quoted unnamed U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the issue.

Kushner has lost his access to top-secret U.S. intelligence information in recent weeks because of his inability to obtain a security clearance at that level.

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