(1) Buried in the first major piece of legislation that Trump signed into law is the renewal of the EB-5 visa program offering permanent residence in the United States to affluent foreigners who invest big money in real estate projects here. To date, 80 percent of those foreigners have been wealthy Chinese who see the program as an easy way to legally move to the United States.
(2) Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and key advisor, oversees China policy for Trump.
(3) Just hours after Trump signed the measure on Friday, Kushner’s sister was urging wealthy Chinese in Beijing to take advantage of the law by investing $500,000 each in a pair of Jersey City luxury apartment towers the family-owned Kushner Companies plans to build. (Even before the bill was she was on her way to China to make the pitch.) She told prospective Chinese investors that the project “means a lot to me and my entire family.”
I count 4 ways this is illegal:
1. Kushner advises Trump what legislation to sign. Kushner indirectly profits from the EB-5 visa program. In fact, before January, when Kushner was formally at the helm of Kushner Companies, the business received $50 million in EB-5 financing for a separate New Jersey project -- a Trump-branded luxury high-rise tower in Jersey City that opened late last year. Profiting from legislation one has a hand in making arguably violates U.S. ethics laws and rules.
2. Presumably some of those wealthy Chinese believe their investments in Kushner’s family company will gain them influence in Trump’s White House (especially after Kushner’s sister told them how important the project is to “my entire family.”) Courting them arguably violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
3. Almost all wealthy Chinese are somehow connected to the Chinese government, either as leading members of the Communist Party or as “princelings” – children of such leaders. Profiting off deals with them arguably violates Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution (the “emoluments” clause).
4. China is not formally an enemy of the United States but its actions and goals often put it at odds with the United States. Making a deal for profit with such a foreign power, while holding high office in the U.S., might even be grounds for a charge of treason.
But with a Justice Department under Jeff Sessions who reports to Donald Trump, and with Republicans in control of Congress, none of these will be prosecuted.
There is also the utter hypocrisy of allowing rich foreigners to gain permanent residence in the United States by investing large sums in the President’s extended family’s business, while barring refugees from entering the U.S. at a time when world suffering the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
What do you think?