Democrats launch probe into Kushner’s 666 Fifth Ave bailout

Qatar-linked financing for Midtown skyscraper coincided with reversal of Saudi blockade

National /
Dec.December 09, 2020 03:56 PM
From left: Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Joaquin Castro, 666 Fifth Avenue and Jared Kushner (Getty; Google Maps)

From left: Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Joaquin Castro, 666 Fifth Avenue and Jared Kushner (Getty; Google Maps)

Democrats in Congress have launched an investigation into whether the bailout financing for Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue impacted United States foreign policy.

The probe seeks to determine whether a payment in excess of $1 billion for the Kushner family’s skyscraper was connected to the lifting of a Saudi blockade of Qatar. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas requested a bevy of documents from Brookfield Asset Management, which bailed out the troubled office building in 2018, as well as pertinent ethics records from a senior White House lawyer.

“This sequence of events, especially the stunning reversal in U.S. policy towards Qatar, raises serious questions about what role Jared Kushner — and the financial interests of his family — may have played in influencing U.S. foreign policy regarding the blockade,” the lawmakers wrote.

The investigation lays out a timeline, previously chronicled in news reports, which the lawmakers say raises questions about the role the business transaction played in altering foreign policy.

At Jared Kushner’s behest, the firm purchased 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007 for a record-breaking $1.8 billion. It initially sought to reposition the asset, but plans to replace it with a new skyscraper that would have condos, a hotel and retail never materialized.

A decade later, the building was still 30 percent vacant, and a $1.4 billion payment on the debt was due. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund initially rebuffed Charlie Kushner’s request to invest about a billion dollars in the property, which the lawmakers say coincided with a dramatic shift in foreign policy toward Qatar.

During a 2017 trip to the Middle East, Jared Kushner met with representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to discuss a blockade of Qatar. Despite questions and concerns raised by the State Department — including from Rex Tillerson, then the Secretary of State — the controversial move was backed two weeks later by President Donald Trump, the investigation states.

More than a year later, Kushner received a $1.28 billion bailout from Brookfield, which purchased the ground lease beneath the tower and paid nearly a century of rent up front, just months before the original note came due.

Subsequently, the restrictions on Qatar were eased. A Financial Times investigation found that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund was the second-largest stakeholder in Brookfield Property Partners, the entity that provided Kushner with the financing.

Brookfield has said that Qatari representatives had no involvement in the Fifth Avenue transaction. In 2020, the firm’s chairman Ric Clark said at a public event that there was no “quid pro quo” involved in the deal, and affirmed its plan to renovate the building.

Brookfield and Kushner did not respond to requests to comment.





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