Donald Trump’s son–in–law and presidential adviser Jared Kushner is facing yet another scandal linked to his time as CEO of the family’s predatory real estate empire. At the center of the latest scandal, like many of the others, is the Kushners’ apparent proclivity for deceit and greed while doing business.
According to an investigation by the Associated Press published on Sunday, “The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city [New York City] declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.”
The report notes that when the company, with Kushner at the helm, bought three apartment buildings in Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected from the arbitrary raising of rents by developers and efforts to force them out. That didn’t stop Kushner’s company, which allegedly falsified construction permit applications by claiming the buildings had no rent–regulated tenants, the AP reported. Two years later, Kushner Companies sold the three buildings for $60 million.
Former tenants of those buildings say they were subjected to constant harassment, including off–hours construction, and “banging, drilling, dust and leaking water.”
According to Housing Rights Initiative, a watchdog group that investigates real estate fraud and that conducted the research behind the AP report, “Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 2016, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants.”
Of course, the company now claims that Kushner had plausible deniability. He apparently didn’t sign any of the documents, and the company, which Kushner no longer runs since joining the Trump administration, says that it outsourced document preparation to “third parties.”
Kushner, 37, often resorts to this type of argument involving plausible deniability when confronted with troubling behavior. In late February, he was stripped of his top–security clearance likely over his questionable dealings with foreign officials and repeated omissions and revisions of his SF-86 security clearance questionnaire. Charles Phalen, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, told lawmakers last month that he had “never seen that level of mistakes.” Kushner reportedly had made over 100 errors or omissions on his questionnaire.
He also has a reputation for being a slumlord. An investigation last year by The New York Times and ProPublica found that Kushner’s companies had a habit of aggressively pursuing and hounding working–class tenants over minuscule amounts of rent and supposedly “broken” leases. The report also documented widespread neglect in the upkeep of units, including one woman who had maggots in her living room carpet and raw sewage coming out of her kitchen sink.
Last October, Maryland’s attorney general opened an investigation into Kushner Companies over insufficient maintenance, poor living conditions, and abusive debt collection, including trying to jail tenants who owed rent.
Housing Rights Initiative founder Aaron Carr called the latest revelations “bare-faced greed.”
“The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment,” he said in the AP report.
While Kushner sold some of his holdings before joining the Trump administration, the report said he has retained stakes in several properties, from which he continues to earn millions of dollars.