[Marxism] Trumponomics as professional wrestling

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jan 9 12:57:29 MST 2017

On 1/9/17 2:51 PM, John Reimann wrote:
> So, it's not that the Democrats are the answer, but I do think that
> Trump's election represents a qualitative change from what we've seen
> over recent decades.

We'll see. The one thing I am sure about is that WWIII is not about to 
happen. Comrades really need to read the NY Times article I quoted from. 
In fact, let me post it here:

Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal

On the night of Nov. 16, a group of executives gathered in a private 
dining room of the restaurant La Chine at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in 
Midtown Manhattan. The table was laden with Chinese delicacies and 
$2,100 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild. At one end sat Wu Xiaohui, 
the chairman of the Waldorf’s owner, Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese 
financial behemoth with estimated assets of $285 billion and an 
ownership structure shrouded in mystery. Close by sat Jared Kushner, a 
major New York real estate investor whose father-in-law, Donald J. 
Trump, had just been elected president of the United States.

It was a mutually auspicious moment.

Mr. Wu and Mr. Kushner — who is married to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka 
and is one of his closest advisers — were nearing agreement on a joint 
venture in Manhattan: the redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue, the fading 
crown jewel of the Kushner family real-estate empire. Anbang, which has 
close ties to the Chinese state, has seen its aggressive efforts to buy 
up hotels in the United States slowed amid concerns raised by Obama 
administration officials who review foreign investments for national 
security risk.

Now, according to two people with knowledge of the get-together, Mr. Wu 
toasted Mr. Trump and declared his desire to meet the president-elect, 
whose ascension, he was sure, would be good for global business.

Since the election, intense scrutiny has been trained on Mr. Trump’s 
company and the potential conflicts of interest he will face. But with 
Mr. Kushner laying the groundwork for his own White House role, the 
meeting at the Waldorf shines a light on his family’s 
multibillion-dollar business, Kushner Companies, and on the ethical 
thicket he would have to navigate while advising his father-in-law on 
policy that could affect his bottom line.

Unlike the Trump Organization, which has shifted its focus from 
acquisition to branding of the Trump name, the Kushner family business, 
led by Mr. Kushner, is a major real estate investor across the New York 
area and beyond. The company has participated in roughly $7 billion in 
acquisitions in the last decade, many of them backed by opaque foreign 
money, as well as financial institutions Mr. Kushner’s father-in-law 
will soon have a hand in regulating.

The Anbang talks, which have not previously been reported, began roughly 
six months ago — “Well before the president-elect’s victory,” Mr. 
Kushner’s spokeswoman, Risa Heller, noted. That was, however, just as 
Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination. While the talks are far 
along, representatives for Mr. Kushner said some points remained 
unresolved. Ms. Heller declined to outline the financial terms under 

Mr. Kushner, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has hired 
a leading Washington law firm, WilmerHale, to advise him on how to 
comply with federal ethics laws should he join the White House staff as 
an adviser to the president. The firm has concluded that one potential 
sticking point, a federal anti-nepotism law, is not applicable, though 
not all ethics experts agree. While the law prohibits federal officials 
from hiring relatives for agencies they lead, Mr. Kushner’s lawyers 
argue, among other things, that the White House is not an agency and is 
therefore exempt.

As for conflicts of interest, Mr. Kushner would be required to make 
limited financial disclosures, which could give the public a clearer 
picture of his holdings. And, unlike Mr. Trump, who as president will be 
exempt from conflict-of-interest laws, he would have to recuse himself 
from decisions with a “direct and predictable effect” on his financial 

Jamie S. Gorelick, a WilmerHale partner who served in the Clinton 
administration, said that while plans were not final, Mr. Kushner was 
taking significant steps to extricate himself from the family business. 
“Mr. Kushner is committed to complying with federal ethics laws, and we 
have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the 
steps he would take,” she said.

He will resign as chief executive of Kushner Companies, and though the 
law does not require it, she said he would divest “substantial assets.” 
She did not name them, but Ms. Heller said they would include his stake 
in 666 Fifth Avenue.

Just how meaningful that plan is remains to be seen. Mr. Kushner’s 
representatives declined to detail his personal financial interest in 
Kushner Companies’ properties, and they said he intended to keep his 
interest in other properties beyond 666 Fifth Avenue. He also has a 
stake, through a family investment vehicle, in a private equity firm run 
by his brother, Joshua, with far-flung investments of its own.

Mr. Kushner, who turns 36 on Tuesday, has emerged as one of the most 
powerful figures in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Already he is involved in 
steering policy, making personnel choices and serving as the middleman 
between foreign leaders, the White House and the president-elect in ways 
that could affect his business, even as companies like Anbang see 
opportunity in entering into new ventures with the president-elect’s 

Mr. Kushner played a pivotal role in persuading Mr. Trump, who made the 
Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs a bête noire of his presidential 
campaign, to appoint the firm’s president, Gary D. Cohn, as his chief 
economic adviser, according to several people involved in the 
transition. (Like a number of people interviewed for this article, they 
spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to 
discuss internal matters.) Goldman Sachs has lent the Kushner Companies 
money and is an investor in a real estate technology company co-founded 
by Mr. Kushner and his brother.

Mr. Trump has said that his son-in-law, an Orthodox Jew, will play a 
central role in dealings with Israel, describing him as so talented that 
he could help “do peace in the Middle East.” Mr. Kushner’s company has 
received multiple loans from Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim. The 
incoming Trump administration will inherit a Justice Department 
investigation into allegations that the bank helped wealthy Americans 
evade taxes.

Indeed, despite a lack of foreign policy experience, Mr. Kushner is 
emerging as an important figure at a crucial moment for some of 
America’s most complicated diplomatic relationships. Such is his 
influence in the geopolitical realm that transition officials have told 
the Obama White House that foreign policy matters that need to be 
brought to Mr. Trump’s attention should be relayed through his 
son-in-law, according to a person close to the transition and a 
government official with direct knowledge of the arrangement.

So when the Chinese ambassador to the United States called the White 
House in early December to express what one official called China’s 
“deep displeasure” at Mr. Trump’s break with longstanding diplomatic 
tradition by speaking by phone with the president of Taiwan, the White 
House did not call the president-elect’s national security team. 
Instead, it relayed that information through Mr. Kushner, whose company 
was not only in the midst of discussions with Anbang but also has 
Chinese investors.

Ethics experts said that while the conflict-of-interest law is narrowly 
drawn, Mr. Kushner’s mix of roles leads inevitably to ethical questions.

Matthew T. Sanderson, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and former general 
counsel to Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, said deals like 
the one with Anbang “might not be illegal under the conflict-of-interest 
rules, but raise a strong appearance that a foreign entity is using Mr. 
Kushner’s business to try to influence U.S. policy.”

Without knowing details of Mr. Kushner’s holdings and divestiture plans, 
he said, the merits of his proposal are hard to assess. Even if he 
divests his stake in certain properties, Mr. Sanderson added, “it 
strikes me as a half-measure” that “still poses a real 
conflict-of-interest issue and would be a drag on Mr. Trump’s presidency 
and cause the American people to question Mr. Kushner’s role in policy 

In the 1980s, his father, Charles Kushner, took over the New 
Jersey-based construction business started by his own father, a 
Holocaust survivor from Poland. Charles expanded into office buildings 
and apartments, eventually assembling a $1 billion real estate business 
and becoming a leading Democratic donor, contributing to politicians in 
New Jersey and New York and winning appointment to the board of the Port 
Authority of New York and New Jersey.

But the company was upended when Charles became engulfed in a nasty 
family feud over how the business’s proceeds were to be distributed. The 
fight, which played out in a federal courthouse in Newark, resulted in a 
plea deal for Charles, who in 2005 was sentenced to two years in prison 
for tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign 
donations. The family infighting was so bitter that, at one point, 
Charles hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, videotaped the 
encounter and sent the footage to his sister.

Jared, 23 at the time of his father’s conviction, had recently graduated 
from Harvard. He was studying for an M.B.A. and law degree at New York 
University in 2006 when he bought The New York Observer, at the time an 
influential weekly newspaper known for its coverage of the city’s elite 
and high-end real estate.

It is unclear exactly when he assumed control of the family business. 
The company now says he became chief executive in 2008, but 
contemporaneous news accounts rarely describe him that way until 2012. 
Nevertheless, Mr. Kushner quickly became the company’s public face as it 
expanded across the Hudson River into Manhattan, much as Mr. Trump had 
left Queens for the big city decades before.

Charles Kushner was released from federal custody in August 2006. He 
immediately resumed a significant role in the business and remains 
heavily involved today. Still, it was with Jared as headliner that the 
company soon made its biggest play ever: $1.8 billion for the skyscraper 
at 666 Fifth Avenue that would remain at the center of its story to this 
day. It was the highest price ever paid for a single office building in 
the United States — and more than three times what its seller had paid 
six years earlier.

Around this time, Mr. Kushner met the woman he would marry: Ivanka 
Trump. “J-Vanka,” the headlines blared, as the New York tabloids 
celebrated a match made in real estate heaven.

Everything was looking up, until suddenly it wasn’t. Within a year after 
the deal, the overheated lending market seized up and Kushner Companies 
struggled to repay its considerable loans — and to hold on to 666 Fifth 
Avenue. To the rescue over the next few years came the Carlyle Group, a 
giant private equity firm; Vornado Realty Trust, then a co-owner of two 
of Mr. Trump’s largest properties; and Inditex, owner of Zara, the 
fashion retailer founded by Amancio Ortega, the Spanish tycoon who is 
one of the world’s wealthiest men.

In the end, Mr. Kushner’s company survived, and he and Ms. Trump became 
fixtures on the international boldface-name circuit.

In August, they were spotted with Wendi Deng, an ex-wife of Rupert 
Murdoch, on the 453-foot yacht Rising Sun, owned by the entertainment 
mogul David Geffen. Several weeks later, they were photographed watching 
the United States Open tennis finals with the art collector Dasha 
Zhukova, wife of the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, a member of 
President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle.

Since 2012, Kushner Companies has been on a buying spree. It has 
acquired at least 120 properties, mostly a mix of existing commercial 
and residential buildings in New York and New Jersey, according to data 
compiled by Real Capital Analytics, a research firm.

Recent deals include the $340 million acquisition of the Jehovah’s 
Witnesses’ headquarters in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and $345 
million for a nearby plot of undeveloped land. Mr. Kushner’s company 
also bought several floors of the old New York Times building for $295 
million in 2015 from Lev Leviev, an Israeli who is chairman of one of 
the largest real estate development companies in Russia.

Increasingly, the company is branching out across the country — to 
Philadelphia; Baltimore; Toledo, Ohio; and Kansas City, Mo. In Chicago, 
it owns the building that houses the Midwest headquarters of AT&T. In 
all, the company owns more than 20,000 apartments and approximately 14 
million square feet of office space.

As the Kushners have expanded their businesses, they have also, by 
necessity, expanded their universe of investors and creditors. Lenders 
have included private equity giants like Blackstone, the French bank 
Natixis and Goldman Sachs. Another lender is Deutsche Bank, which 
recently reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department 
over its sale of toxic mortgage securities. But it remains under 
investigation over allegations that it disguised trades that helped 
Russian clients move money offshore.

Beyond real estate, Mr. Kushner has moved into the Wall Street, health 
care and tech spaces.

He has an indirect investment in Thrive Capital, a venture capital firm 
valued at about $1.5 billion that is run by his brother, Joshua. The 
company has made more than 100 investments in dozens of companies, both 
in the United States and abroad. Among them is Oscar, a health insurance 
company founded in 2012 to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act, 
which Mr. Trump has vowed to dismantle. Oscar’s investors have included 
Li Ka-shing, who is one of Hong Kong’s richest men, and China’s Ping An 
Insurance, which has close ties to relatives of former Prime Minister 
Wen Jiabao of China.

The Kushner brothers have counted the Russian billionaire tech investor 
Yuri Milner and the Chinese billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, as 
investors in another endeavor — Cadre, a tech-savvy real estate 
investment company they started with a friend. Goldman Sachs has 
invested in both tech ventures.

But the money behind many of Mr. Kushner’s real-estate investments 
remains a mystery. While the company lists dozens of partners on its 
website, it does not disclose the individuals behind those companies.

One of the newest Kushner projects — a Trump-branded luxury apartment 
tower that opened in November in Jersey City — got nearly a quarter of 
its financing, about $50 million, from Chinese investors who are not 
publicly identified.

The investors are beneficiaries of a federal program that grants 
two-year visas and a path to permanent residency in exchange for 
investments of $500,000. The program, known as EB-5, has become popular 
with real estate developers as a cheap form of financing; in fiscal year 
2015, the State Department issued 9,764 of the visas — overwhelmingly to 
applicants from China.

But the program, which must be renewed periodically by Congress, has 
lately come under fire. The Government Accountability Office has issued 
several reports raising concerns about what it termed the program’s 
insufficient background checks and lax safeguards against illicit 
financing. One applicant, the agency found, failed to report potential 
financial ties to a string of Chinese brothels.

Then there are the Kushners’ continuing negotiations with Anbang’s Mr. 
Wu, one of the most politically connected men in China.

In 2015, Mr. Kushner began pursuing a grand vision for 666 Fifth Avenue. 
The renowned architect Zaha Hadid was asked to come up with a design to 
resculpt the 40-story, 1950s-era aluminum-clad office building, adding 
apartments, a hotel and a mall and nearly tripling its height to 1,400 feet.

But the plan needed money, and while Mr. Kushner had managed to hang on 
to his family’s flagship building, it still had a lot of debt, with a 
$1.1 billion loan coming due in 2019, and a good portion of the 
commercial office space vacant.

Anbang, which got its start as an auto insurance company in 2004, had 
become one of the most aggressive Chinese buyers of United States real 
estate, and had begun investing in hotels. But it had encountered 
problems of its own; its byzantine ownership structure had given rise to 
concern on Wall Street and in Washington.

The Times reported last year that Anbang is owned by a few dozen 
companies, which in turn are owned by a number of shell companies that 
are controlled by roughly 100 people, many of whom have ties to a county 
in China that is the home of Mr. Wu, whose own power stems in part from 
marriage. In his case he married Zhuo Ran, a granddaughter of Deng 
Xiaoping, the leader who brought China out of the chaos of the Mao era. 
Mr. Wu also counts as a central business partner the son of a People’s 
Liberation Army marshal, and he has recruited several former government 
insurance regulators to serve on his board.

Anbang’s structure has stoked such suspicion about its true ownership 
that some Wall Street firms, including Morgan Stanley, have opted not to 
advise the company on United States mergers and acquisitions because 
they cannot get the information needed to satisfy their “know your 
client” guidelines.

Anbang’s deep ties to the Chinese state have also led to a break in 
presidential protocol. Presidents have long stayed at the Waldorf, but 
when Mr. Obama visited New York for the opening of a session of the 
United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, he decided to seek 
other accommodations. American officials were vague about the reasons 
for the change at the time; a senior national security official cited 
security, counterintelligence and cybersurveillance concerns.

National security concerns have also complicated Anbang’s efforts to 
acquire other properties in the United States.

One deal, to buy the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, fell apart in 
October amid concerns from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the 
United States, which comprises the heads of nine federal agencies and is 
charged with reviewing the national security risks of transactions 
involving foreign governments or state-connected companies. The Hotel 
del Coronado is near a naval base, and deals involving proximity to 
national security infrastructure typically receive heightened scrutiny. 
Anbang was, however, able to acquire the other hotels in the same 

Last year, Anbang tried to purchase the Starwood Hotels chain, 
outbidding Marriott with a $14 billion offer. It was widely reported 
that the deal would be subject to review by the committee. But though 
the parties expressed confidence that it would pass muster, ultimately 
Anbang walked away from the deal before submitting the kind of detailed 
inside information that process would entail.

And while Anbang’s planned $1.57 billion purchase of Des Moines-based 
Fidelity & Guaranty Life, first announced in November 2015, was cleared 
by the committee, also known as Cfius, it stalled after the New York 
State Department of Financial Services demanded more information about 
Anbang’s shareholding structure.

But Anbang was nothing if not savvy. Company officials had cultivated a 
relationship with Benjamin M. Lawsky, who had earlier led the financial 
services agency, from May 2011 to June 2015. It was Mr. Lawsky, by then 
a consultant, who introduced Anbang to Kushner Companies, according to 
people with knowledge of how the discussions came about. Mr. Lawsky 
declined to comment.

Mr. Kushner led the negotiations, his spokeswoman, Ms. Heller, 
confirmed. Kushner Companies would disclose little else about the joint 
venture, except to say that Anbang would become one of the equity 
partners in the building’s redevelopment if an agreement is finalized. 
Anbang declined to comment.

It was just coincidence that Mr. Kushner’s Nov. 16 dinner at the Waldorf 
with Mr. Wu took place the week after the election, Ms. Heller said, 
adding that it had been in the works for a while.

By the time of the meeting, Mr. Kushner had decided to hand off certain 
business relationships, including the one with Anbang, to others at 
Kushner Companies, according to Ms. Heller, and it was for that reason 
that he invited his father and Laurent Morali, the president of Kushner 
Companies. She said he planned to sell his stake in 666 Fifth before the 
closing of any Anbang deal, but she declined to name the potential 
buyers or the price Mr. Kushner hoped to get.

Ms. Heller stressed in her statement that the United States has “not 
found Anbang to be a state-owned enterprise” — an important technical 
point, given that the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause prohibits the 
acceptance of payments and gifts from foreign governments.

Should it consummate its deal with Anbang, she said, Kushner Companies 
will seek any necessary approvals from the federal government. She 
expressed confidence that any deal would pass muster with the foreign 
investment committee, citing the fact that it did not block the Chinese 
company from buying the Waldorf Astoria.

Come Jan. 20, when Mr. Trump is scheduled to be inaugurated, that 
committee will be made up of his cabinet members, and the process is 
such that the president has the final say.

It is a process with which Mr. Trump has some familiarity. During the 
campaign, he repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton for supporting, as 
secretary of state and member of the foreign investment committee, a 
deal that benefited donors to her family’s charitable foundation while 
giving the Russians control of about 20 percent of America’s 
uranium-extraction capacity.

On China, Mr. Trump has talked a tough game, accusing Beijing of 
currency manipulation and raising the possibility of a trade war. But 
whether that is only a negotiating tactic remains to be seen. The 
president-elect has his own financial entanglements with China: He owns 
a 30 percent stake in a partnership that owes roughly $950 million to a 
group of lenders that includes the Bank of China, and one of his biggest 
tenants at Trump Tower is another state-owned bank, the Industrial and 
Commercial Bank of China.

With Anbang a magnet for controversy, Mr. Kushner has kept the 
negotiations under wraps. But a week after the Nov. 16 dinner at the 
Waldorf, Mr. Kushner’s father and Mr. Wu met at the hotel for lunch. 
After the elder Mr. Kushner departed, Mr. Wu was clearly elated.

“I love you guys,” he exclaimed in English to his remaining entourage, 
according to one person present.

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