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Kushner's Sister Suggests Family Can Help Chinese Get U.S. Visas In Business Exchange


There's new scrutiny being directed towards senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner and his family's business interests overseas. The story flared up because of something that happened in Beijing yesterday. Chinese investors filled a ballroom to listen to Kushner's sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer. She was asking investors to help finance a real estate project in New Jersey and suggested, in return, investors could get American green cards. We wanted to hear more about the story and what it means, so we called William Wan. He's a correspondent for The Washington Post, and he's been reporting on this whole issue stateside.

William, thanks for joining us.

WILLIAM WAN: Great to be with you.

SINGH: So first of all, tell us about this event that got so much attention. I understand journalists were booted from it. What did they hear before they were promptly asked to leave?

WAN: Right. So we had a journalist there from The Washington Post. There was one from The New York Times. The both of them were forced to leave. They got to witness Jared Kushner's sister, who was kind of the main event, give her pitch for investing into their company in return for a chance to apply for a visa. They also saw some of the promotional materials, for example, the brochure. The tagline for it was invest 500,000 and immigrate to the United States.

SINGH: Now, this all has to do - or all of it's related to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, is that right?

WAN: Yeah, the EB-5 program. It's this unique kind of program where if you have a lot of money, you're a foreigner and you want a visa, you just plunk down $500,000. And it gives you a chance to apply for one of these visas outside of the normal kind of visa line.

SINGH: And how big of an issue is this for critics of the Trump administration who've long protested conflicts of interest with the Trump White House?

WAN: I tried to ask a few watchdog groups. It's hard to put in context because so much of the ethics rules, to their mind, are just kind of being thrown out the window. And so to kind of gauge this with all the other ones is hard. But one kind of former ethics lawyer under the George W. Bush administration called it highly inappropriate. I think the exact words he used were incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate.

His point was that there's the appearance of the Kushners implying that if you invest with us, we'll make sure to get you a visa because of our connections with the Trump administration. And that, on the face of it, seems pretty inappropriate and a use of the family connection to enrich yourself.

SINGH: And, again, we should note, the Kushners did not explicitly say that they would use their influence in the White House to get these investors green cards. But what do you think the Chinese investors took from this particular meeting?

WAN: Well, in China, you don't have to spell out any of this. There's a cultural tradition there where in the modern China, everything is tied together, the rich and the powerful and the ones in charge of the Communist Party. They're all the same family. So for them, seeing the Kushners come, seeing the Kushners connection to the Trump White House, it's a very natural association. There's even a name for a second generation, rich, connected political elites. It's called (foreign language spoken), the second generation rich. And so, you know, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, in their minds, can fall very squarely into that princeling realm.

SINGH: That is William Wan, a reporter for The Washington Post. Thank you, William.

WAN: Thanks for having me.

SINGH: We should note that Jared Kushner's lawyer tells NPR that Kushner is not involved in the building project that was discussed, and he is recusing himself from matters involving the EB-5 visa program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.