Weeks Before Blockade, Qatar Denied Money to Kushner’s Firm

Perfecting the politics of personal profit.Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s minister of finance last April, to solicit an investment in the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue, according to a new report from the Intercept.

The Qataris shot him down.

Weeks later, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates organized a blockade of Qatar. The Gulf monarchies claimed that this act of aggression was a response to Donald Trump’s call for the Arab world to crack down on terrorists — after taking in the president’s majestic sermon in Riyadh, the Saudis simply couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t take action to thwart Qatar’s covert financing of Islamist extremism.

In reality, the Saudis’ primary aim was to punish Doha for asserting its independence from Riyadh by, among other things, engaging with Iran and abetting Al Jazeera’s journalism. This was obvious to anyone familiar with the Saudis’ own affinity for (shamelessly) exporting jihadism — which is to say, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Middle East politics.

And it was equally obvious that the United States had nothing to gain from a conflict between its Gulf allies. Qatar hosts one of America’s largest and most strategically important air bases in the Middle East. Any development that pushes Doha away from Riyadh pulls it toward Tehran. Thus, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — and virtually every other arm of the U.S. government — scrambled to nip the blockade in the bud.

But Jared Kushner was (reportedly) an exception. Donald Trump was more than happy to endorse the idea that his speech had moved mountains, and commended the Saudis for punishing Qatar — first on Twitter, and then during a press conference in the Rose Garden. According to contemporary reports, his son-in-law was one of the only White House advisers to approve of this stance.

Perhaps, Kushner’s idiosyncratic view of the blockade had nothing to do with Qatar’s rejection of his father. Maybe the senior White House adviser simply wanted to tell Trump what the latter wished to hear.

But the government of Qatar, for one, thinks otherwise. As reports:

Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, these people said.

It’s worth noting that the project the Qatari foreign minister refused to finance wasn’t just one more item in the Kushner family’s portfolio; it was Jared’s baby — his misbegotten, sickly, drowning baby.

In 2007, Jared Kushner decided that the real-estate market had nowhere to go but up. And so the 26-year-old mogul decided to plow $500 million of his family’s money — and $1.3 billion in borrowed capital — into purchasing 666 Fifth Avenue for twice the price it had previously sold for. Even if we’d somehow avoided a global financial crisis, this would have been a bad bet: Before the crash, when the building was almost fully occupied, it generated only about two-thirds of the revenue the Kushners needed to keep up with their debt payments.

After the crisis, however, things got really hairy. The Kushners were forced to sell off the building’s retail space to pay their non-mortgage debt on the building — and then to hand over nearly half of the office space to Vornado as part of a refinancing agreement with the real-estate giant.

The office space that the Kushners retained is worth less than its $1.2 billion mortgage — which is due early in 2019. If their company can’t find some new scheme for refinancing and redeveloping the property by then, Kushner will have cost his family a fortune.

And Jared really doesn’t want that to happen. In the months between his father-in-law’s election and inauguration, Kushner divided his time between organizing the transition, and seeking capital from (suddenly quite interested) investors aligned with foreign governments: During that period, Kushner attempt to secure a $400 million loan from the Chinese insurance firm Anbang, and a $500 million one from former Qatari prime minister and billionaire investor Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, also known as “HBJ.” Anbang pulled out once the deal attracted critical media scrutiny, and HBJ jumped ship when the Kushners failed to find a second major source of capital.

In those same weeks, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Kremlin-affiliated Vnesheconombank. The senior White House adviser has insisted that this meeting was strictly political; Gorkov maintains it was strictly business.

All of these interactions are currently being scrutinized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

They have also, apparently, been studied by top government officials in the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico — all of whom have privately discussed strategies for exploiting Jared Kushner’s business interests for geopolitical gain, according to a report from the on Wednesday.

And if America’s allies and adversaries are looking for further (circumstantial) evidence that U.S. foreign policy might be for sale, the New York Times provided some this week, when it revealed that Kushner’s family company had won $500 million in financing last year from a pair of American firms right after their top executives had White House meetings with one Jared Kushner.

Maybe all of this looks worse than it is. But it looks like the president’s son-in-law worked to sour relations with a key U.S. ally in the Middle East — which has since drifted further into the orbit of a regime hostile to the United States — because it refused to bail out his family’s underwater real-estate investment.

Even if this is appearance is deceiving, why isn’t the mere semblance of such high corruption enough to bounce Kushner from the White House? Are Kushner’s personal skills really more valuable than his conflicts of interest are toxic? Is a real-estate heir who has no policy-making experience, background in geopolitics, or security clearance — but does have significant business interests in Israel — really such an ideal choice for brokering peace in the Middle East?

Kushner’s sole qualification for his senior White House position (beyond having been born and betrothed to the right people) is the business savvy that allowed him to avoid squandering his family’s enormous fortune — and if he doesn’t auction off American foreign policy for an emergency loan, he very well may have to delete that item from his résumé.


Trump’s Defunding Planned Parenthood of $50-60 Million. That Money May Go to Pregnancy Centers | LifeNews.com

Pro-life pregnancy centers looking to expand into women’s medical services soon may have some extra help, thanks to the Trump administration.

The administration’s changes to Title X family planning grants have angered the abortion chain Planned Parenthood, prompting a lawsuit, but they provide hope for life-affirming pregnancy centers. The abortion chain receives about $50 million to $60 million in Title X funds annually, but that could change if the new rules are upheld and other proposals are implemented.

Politico reports pro-life pregnancy centers soon may be competing with Planned Parenthood for those funds.

The report profiled Kathleen Eaton Bravo, founder of the Obria Group, a West Coast chain of pregnancy centers that applied for Title X grants this year.

Bravo said she wants her non-profit to be a life-affirming competitor of Planned Parenthood. Its 30 centers offer pregnancy resources, but many are expanding to provide medical services like prenatal care and STD testing/treatment as well, she said.

“I didn’t recreate the wheel,” Bravo said. “I’m using Planned Parenthood’s model, and it’s working.”

HELP LIFENEWS SAVE BABIES FROM ABORTION! Please help LifeNews.com with a year-end donation!

Bravo’s work comes from the heart. She had an abortion 38 years ago, and deeply regrets taking her unborn child’s life, according to the report. She now works to help empower women to make better choices for themselves and their babies.

A Catholic, Bravo said the Obria centers do not provide artificial birth control, but they do teach methods of natural family planning. Obria programs also emphasize abstinence until marriage, she said.

According to the report:

The federal government rejected Obria this year for Title X family planning grants because, under the current rules, the Trump administration still requires grantees to include a provider that offers hormonal birth control. Obria plans to reapply by partnering with a health center that provides contraception, though not abortion. …

So far [pro-life pregnancy centers] haven’t gotten money from Title X — the $260 million federal family planning program — but that could change under the administration policy now being finalized.

Based in Orange County, Calif., the Obria Group is on the front lines of this trend. Bravo, the founder, calls her clinics a “holistic” and “comprehensive” alternative to Planned Parenthood.

“There’s a huge need for women’s health care, and everybody doesn’t have to do it the same way,” she told Politico.

Some already are criticizing the effort, though. NARAL, which calls itself “pro-choice,” has a long history of attacking non-profits that promote choices other than abortion.

“Their core is as a ‘fake’ women’s health center,” Amy Everitt of NARAL California told the news outlet.

Other abortion activists have criticized pro-life facilities for not being “comprehensive” health care providers because they refuse to provide or promote abortions. Killing unborn babies in abortions is not health care, but the abortion industry is trying to convince the public that it is.

Title X funds are supposed to be used to help low-income women and men receive birth control, cancer screenings and other health care services. While the tax money cannot be used to pay for abortions, it indirectly funds Planned Parenthood’s vast abortion business.

In May, the Trump administration published a new proposal for Title X that would prohibit Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses from receiving any of those tax dollars unless they completely separate their abortion businesses from their taxpayer-funded services, The Washington Examiner reports. That could mean housing their family planning services in separate buildings with separate staff from their abortion businesses.

The “Protect Life Rule” has not gone into effect yet, but pro-life groups expressed hope that it will soon. Politico predicted it could happen in the “next month or so.”


Trump: Police Officers and Firefighters Make Too Much Money…Hits Them with Tax Penalty

We all know that the recently passed tax bill is likely the single worst piece of legislation in the history of American politics. You know it, I know it, Paul Ryan knows it, Donald Trump knows it. Well, Trump probably doesn’t, because, well, he’s delusional.

But it’s really, really bad. And historically unpopular, like the President whose name will forever be attached to it.

Maybe you aren’t totally convinced about how bad it is yet. So there’s this: Under this plan, a wealthy CEO can deduct a private jet, but a police officer cannot deduct his/her uniform.

“Yeah, but they’re the party of ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and thanking everyone who ever wore a uniform for anything for their service!” you might say. And I have some oceanfront property in Idaho to sell you if you believe that.

Salon reports, Donald Trump often declares his support, even love, for police, firefighters and other first responders. That isn’t stopping him, however, from nicking their wallets in the new tax law that he is expected to sign in early January.

Buried in the hastily drafted tax bill’s more than 500 pages are provisions eliminating “miscellaneous” deductions taken by almost 28 million taxpayers in 2015. Those are costs you bore to support your job or an investment you own or to pay a professional to prepare your income tax return.

This year cops and other first responders can write off the costs of buying uniforms and dry cleaning them. But in 2018, cops who buy their uniforms or are required to buy their own guns and ammunition will no longer be able to deduct those costs as reasonable and necessary expenses to support their earning a paycheck, thanks to Trump and Congressional Republicans.

But that’s not all. Cops and anyone else who belongs to a union will no longer be allowed to deduct their union dues. People who must bear travel costs without reimbursement from their employers will just have to suck it up starting in January.

Add police officers, the military, teachers, nurses and first responders to the long, long list of hard working Americans that Donald Trump and the Republican party want to make suffer. And all to give the wealthiest among us more wealth.

Shameful.



Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson hands out cash to potential voters

CHICAGO — Willie Wilson, the millionaire businessman and candidate for Chicago mayor, handed out cash to potential voters Sunday morning at a church on Chicago’s South Side.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, himself seeking reelection, joined Wilson at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church at the event.

An aide to Wilson said the businessman gave away $300,000 to 2,000 people through the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation, a 501(c)(3). Such organizations are tax-exempt, must not be organized for the benefit of private interests and are restricted in how much political activities they can conduct. Wilson says he organized the giveaway to assist homeowners who are struggling to pay their property tax bills.

“My wife and I have been blessed by God to be able to get a few of the material things out of life and so it’s up to us to now continually to share back with all of you all and others,” Wilson told church members during the event.

Wilson’s campaign spokesman insists today’s appearance was not campaign related. But Chicago politicos on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about the event.

“What the hell? Is Bruce Rauner using Willie Wilson and Corey Brooks to buy votes???” tweeted State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, a Democrat.

New Covenant, where the event took place, is actually led by pastor Rev. Stephen J. Thurston and not Corey Brooks as Welch’s tweet indicates.

“Check this out if you wonder why Illinois politicians are often a national joke,” Republican state Rep. David McSweeney said on Twitter. “How can Willie Wilson, a candidate for Mayor of Chicago, literally hand out CASH at a public event? This is so wrong!”

Wilson is known across Chicagoland for his generous charitable work. A man of deep faith, he supports various churches.

Reached by phone, F. Scott Winslow, Wilson for Mayor campaign spokesman, told WGN News Sunday’s event was “absolutely not” a campaign event. Winslow says since Wilson launched his second bid for Chicago mayor, he’s probably given away $500,000.

“While he happens to be a candidate, he’s been a philanthropist for 30 years,” Winslow said.

Winslow insists the campaign is not violating any campaign finance laws since it was not involved with today’s handout. But the event certainly had a political feel.

During the event, Rauner also addressed the church in brief remarks. The governor shared with worshippers that he received an award from the National Black Chamber of Commerce at in event in Washington, D.C. this past Friday, and talked about his work reforming Illinois’ criminal justice system and boosting education funding for schools.

Bruce Rauner addresses attendees at an event at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church on July 22, 2018

With Wilson seeking to help property tax owners, Rauner did not pass on an opportunity to discuss his tax agenda. Rauner routinely rails against high property taxes.

“You pay the highest property taxes in America here in Chicago and the South Side and the south suburbs, “ said Rauner. “This is wrong. The system is broken and I’m trying to fix it.”

Rauner is facing Democrat J.B. Pritzker in November. Wilson is one of 10 candidates in the race for Chicago mayor.


Judicial Watch: New Documents Show State Department and USAID Working with Soros Group to Channel Money to ‘Mercenary Army’ of Far-Left Activists in Albania

U.S. Embassy Officials in Albania Shown Working Directly with Soros Operatives to Channel Grant Money into Left-Wing Operations that Attack Traditional, Pro-American Groups, Governments and Policies in Name of ‘Civil Society’

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released  of new documents obtained from the U.S. Department of State about U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding for George Soros’s left-wing nonprofit organizations in Albania. The documents deal primarily with the activities of Soros’ top operative in Albania, Andri Dobrushi, the director of Open Society Foundation-Albania, who was actively engaged in channeling funding to what Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban calls Soros’ “mercenary army.” The documents show U.S. grant money flowing through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that profess to promote “civil society,” while in fact attacking traditional, pro-American groups, governments and policies.

Judicial Watch filed a May 26, 2017, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State and USAID after they failed to respond to March 31, 2017, FOIA requests (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (No. 1:17-cv-01012)).

The records reveal that Soros operative Dobrushi was the first person on a list of invitees by then U.S. Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu to attend an “election rollout event” held at the U.S. Embassy on April 27, 2015. The event was intended to “launch U.S. assistance for the June local elections,” being held in Tirana, Albania. As Judicial Watch previously reported in an April 4, 2018, press release, Ambassador Lu has been closely associated with Soros and the socialist government in Albania, which he assisted by denying U.S. visas to conservative jurists from the conservative party in Albania. Lu has since been nominated by the Trump administration to become US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.

Additionally, a June 18, 2015, email from Ilva Cuko, a Program Specialist in the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, invites several people, including Dobrushi, to a “Donors Grant Reviewing meeting” at the U.S. Embassy, in which the participants would review applications for grants submitted by NGOs seeking U.S. taxpayer grant money from the State Department. Cuko says she would “like to invite you in a discussion on these proposals. Your valuable input and comments will be used by the U.S. Embassy’s Democracy Commission, which has the ultimate authority in awarding the grants.”

Cuko on August 28, 2015, also invited Dobrushi to attend another U.S. Embassy Democracy Commission Small Grants Program “Grant Proposal Technical Review” meeting on September 3 at the U.S. Embassy. At this meeting, Cuko said they would focus on applications dealing with “anticorruption.” Ironically, under the leadership of Soros’ close friend, socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, who took power in 2013, corruption in Albania has soared, with cannabis trafficking in the country increasing 300 percent between 2016 and 2017.

In a February 22, 2016, email, Cuko again invites several people, including Dobrushi, to another “Donors Grant Reviewing Meeting” held at the U.S. Embassy on February 26 where Dobrushi would be able to influence Embassy officials who have “the ultimate authority in awarding the grants.”

Another document, titled “Guidelines for the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program,” shows that the applications for grants that Soros’ operative was reviewing are part of a program the State Department runs in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States called the “Democracy Commission Small Grants Program,” which is supposed to “promote grassroots democracy.” The guidelines also say that the program “supports initiatives of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in building the social and intellectual foundations of democracy, the democratic resolution of problems, strengthening civil society watchdog activities, and the institutionalization of open, pluralistic political processes.”

In addition to Albania, Judicial Watch also has filed FOIA lawsuits against the State Department and USAID for records about funding and political activities of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations in, Macedonia, Romania and Colombia.

“The Obama administration turned over key State Department activities to George Soros, especially in Albania,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Deep State continues to be aligned with Soros and uses the State Department in countries such as Albania to push his radical agenda. And, of course, tax dollars for Soros abroad frees up resources for his activities here in the United States.”

In an earlier document production connected to this lawsuit, Judicial Watch obtained 32 pages of records showing that the Obama administration sent U.S. taxpayers’ funds to a Soros-backed group that used the money to fund left-wing political activities in Albania. That included working with the country’s socialist government to push for highly controversial judicial “reform.” The records also detail how the Soros operation helped the State Department review grant applications from other groups for taxpayer funding. USAID funds were funneled to Soros’ left-wing Open Society Foundations in Albania, particularly the Soros operation efforts to give the socialist government greater control of the judiciary. USAID reportedly gave $9 million in 2016 to the “Justice for All” campaign, which is overseen by Soros’ “East West Management Institute.”


Donald Trump says he’s cutting off FEMA money for California fires

David Jackson, USA TODAY
Published 9:48 a.m. ET Jan. 9, 2019 | Updated 10:35 a.m. ET Jan. 9, 2019

President Donald Trump(Photo: Joe Raedle)

COMMENTMORE

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said in a Wednesday tweet that he is cutting off federal money to fight California wildfires, claiming the money is being wasted.

“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen,” Trump said. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”

It’s unclear whether Trump has already ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut off money for California fires or is threatening to do so as he has in the past.

Critics on Twitter questioned whether Trump could legally withhold FEMA money that has already been appropriated.

State officials have accused Trump of playing politics with the California wildfires, and said he does not understand the issues involved in fighting fires.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has criticized Trump over firefighting policy, tweeted after the president’s shutdown speech on Tuesday that “Trump’s go-to is governing by fear and division.”

Trump’s declaration comes as he takes political heat over the ongoing partial government shutdown, which affects some of FEMA’s operations. 

In an initial post, the president misspelled the word “Forrest,” He later tweeted the same message with the correct spelling of “forest.” 

Trump has been known to suddenly declare sudden policy decisions, only to change or modify them in subsequent days. Examples include the now-slowed-down withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/09/donald-trump-fema-california-wildfires/2523581002/