Another example of the Trump administration's ethical difficulties arose last week, once again involving senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner.
One of the financial institutions recently reported to have granted a massive loan to the Kushner Cos. also had an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission dropped just a month later.
While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
Apollo, which loaned Kushner Cos. $180 million last year, reported that the SEC dropped an investigation begun under the Obama administration.
Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue.
The SEC declined to comment on the probe or decision to drop it, and Kushner Cos. attorneys have maintained that Kushner has had no improper influence on business decisions since taking his post at the White House.
But ethics experts agree that at the very least, such coincidences as these look bad for Kushner and the White House:
“I suppose the best case for Kushner is that this looks absolutely terrible,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Without presuming that there is any kind of quid pro quo ... there are a lot of ways that the fact of Apollo’s engagement with Kushner and the Kushner businesses in a public and private context might cast a shadow over what the SEC is doing and influence consciously or unconsciously how the agency acted.”
“I’d never seen anybody come in to the government with as much debt exposure as Trump and Kushner,” said Virginia Canter, a former ethics official in the Obama and Clinton White Houses who is now with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.