Jared Kushner’s sister offered wealthy investors in China a chance to score American visas if they invest in one of the family’s properties — a deal that watchdogs saw as blatant bribery.
Nicole Kushner Meyer took the stage at a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Beijing on Saturday with a pitch to a room with about 100 investors: They could get green cards if they poured money into One Journal Square, a $ 150 million luxury Jersey City development from her family.
The quid-pro-quo would come through the EB-5 program, which grants visas to foreigners who invest at least $ 500,000 in American development projects. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have often criticized the program as a golden road to citizenship for the wealthy.
According to multiple media reports from the event, parts of Meyer’s talk touted her ties to President Trump through her brother, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
One slide in her sales pitch pictured Trump and identified him as a “key decision maker” for the EB-5 program. She also made sure to mention her brother’s role as a senior advisor to Trump.
Meyer told the crowd the Jersey City project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” according to the New York Times. A brochure for the event told those in attendance: “Invest $ 500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”
Another speaker at the event told the crowd they should “invest early” to make sure they “invest under the old rules” — hinting that the visa program might soon change.
Reporters from the Times and the Washington Post attended the publicly advertised talk, but were kicked out by organizers who claimed it was a “private event.”
Kushner still holds some of his stakes in Kushner Companies even after accepting a White House role that has him involved in foreign affairs. Trump, too, has retained his leadership of his Trump Organization and allows his adult sons to run its daily operations.
Ethics watchdogs have warned since Trump took office that he and his family are courting conflict with the emoluments clause, a provision in the Constitution that bans federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign leaders. A violation of the clause — which would require proof of a deliberate bribe — is a potentially impeachable offense.
There have been numerous incidents in Trump’s tenure that appeared to pose such conflicts — some involving China.
The Chinese government in March swiftly approved nearly 40 nearly trademarks for Trump. One month later, the government granted trademarks to Ivanka Trump as she and Kushner dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at President Trump’s Maro-A-Lago estate.
Watchdogs once again warned that the family might be crossing the line with the offer in Beijing.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, called the sales pitch “highly problematic” and said Kushner should recuse himself from the EB-5 program.
A former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush called the event “incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate.”
“They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa,” Richard Painter told the Post.
“Of course they’re going to want to invest.”
Kushner’s reps did not comment about the event.
The deal would contradict two of Trump’s central campaign promises: Curbing immigration and cracking down on countries such as China that he feels have not been fair economic partners to the United States.
Trump has taken multiple moves in office to limit immigration to the United States, and as a candidate he railed against the Chinese government and said America was letting China “rape” it with trade deals.