WH Won’t Release Details Of Kushner’s Secret Meeting With Chinese Investors
White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner attended a meeting with Chinese investors in 2017 during President Donald Trump’s visit to China, but the White House is dragging its feet on releasing details about the meeting, according to CNBC.
The news outlet learned of the meeting while interviewing prominent Chinese venture capitalist Hugo Shong in November 2017, speaking with him about bilateral business relations between the U.S. and China.
At the time, Trump was on a 12-day tour through Asia: “On the agenda during his two-day stop in Beijing: bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Kequiang; a “meet-and-greet” with U.S. Embassy staff; a speech and business event at the Great Hall of the People; and a receiving line at a state dinner.”
But another meeting was to take place during that time — one that was not listed on the White House or State Department agendas.
Kushner convened a meeting with private equity investors, alongside U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad. CNBC only learned of the gathering through its interview with Shong, who said “he had accepted the administration’s invitation for Chinese investors to offer advice in a small-group forum with the two U.S. officials as they worked to outline the administration’s policy.”
Two U.S. officials who spoke with CNBC after the story was published said the meeting and guest list were arranged by “Wendi Deng Murdoch, a longtime friend of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.” They also said the event was a “casual lunch” where no personal or official business was discussed.
But when CNBC initially tried to learn more details about the meeting in 2017, the White House and State Department would not respond to requests. Shong also went quiet upon discovering that the event had not been disclosed by the Trump administration.
So CNBC turned to the Freedom of Information Act, filing such a request with the State Department, which acknowledged the request on December 11, 2017.
However, the State Department said the request would take a long time to process due to the “unusual circumstances” surrounding it. The department also denied CNBC the “expedited processing” status it requested, on the grounds that the information was newsworthy and urgent: “CNBC reasoned this meeting possessed both qualities, and, if Kushner had been meeting with investors who would participate in future business, there were urgent implications. After being denied expedition the first time around, CNBC appealed.”
That appeal was denied as well, with a May 2018 State Department letter stating that the request “did not meet the established criteria” for expedited processing.
In October, the State Department finally offered an expected date of completion for the request: “July 23, 2021 — 3½ years after the original filing. Put another way: 1,323 days.”
“During the first two years of the Trump presidency, the State Department processed 83% of ‘complex’ requests in less than 400 days, according to analysis of public data available on FOIA.gov,” CNBC noted.
Though CNBC did not speculate as the reason the State Department is slow-walking its request, the news outlet did note that at the time of Kushner’s meeting, his family “was under fire for its pursuit of overseas investors while Jared Kushner occupied a senior role advising the president on foreign policy ranging from Middle East peace to trade with China and Mexico.”
Further, in the months leading up to the meeting, “Kushner’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer referred to Jared at an event urging wealthy Chinese investors to buy $500,000 visas to come to the United States and participate in an upcoming New Jersey project.”
And Kushner was also trying to find a buyer for the Kushner Companies’ New York Property, 666 Fifth Ave., which had a $1.4 billion debt coming due and no buyers in sight.
CNBC noted that the company’s deal to sell a state to China’s Anbang Insurance in 2016 fell through over conflict of interest concerns if Trump were to win the presidency. Kushner Companies ultimately struck a deal with Qatar-backed Brookfield Properties in 2018, which “announced it would pay upfront for a 99-year lease on the building, erasing the Kushner Companies’ financial troubles.”
Watch CNBC's report: