'The Nation' Contributor Amy Wilentz: "Aggressive Landlord" Jared Kushner's Business Behaves "Like Israelis In The Occupied Territories"

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DEMOCRACY NOW!:: President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is, along with Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., at the center of a shocking New York Times story published Sunday. According to the article, Kushner, Trump Jr. and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower two weeks after Trump won the Republican nomination. Kushner is one of Trump’s senior advisers who has assumed a major diplomatic role in the administration, despite having no previous diplomatic experience. We speak to Amy Wilentz, a contributor at The Nation.

She explains: "One of the sort of amusing stories about the Kushner Companies, when you think of them in light of Jared’s role in the administration, is that they’ve been a kind of mom-and-pop operation themselves in Jersey and Baltimore. They own something like 20,000 units of housing in the Baltimore area. And they’re very aggressive landlords. And they have instigated something like 550 suits against tenants. And I often think that this sort of makes Jared a good envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian situation, since his company behaves, in a sense, like the Israelis in the Occupied Territories—pushing people out of their housing, pushing people out of the places they thought were home. So, that kind of gives him some experience."

Transcript:

AMY WILENTZ: Yes, Jared is—of course, he’s trusted because he’s the son-in-law, and Trump runs the presidency a little bit like a mom-and-pop business, which is where he comes from. And Jared, his experience, really, he’s been a sort of dilettante outside of his business dealings. So he’s the scion of this big New Jersey real estate family, but, other than that, he’s just run a bunch of things that interest him. And as far as international affairs go, that has never seemed to be one of his main concerns. Indeed, the Trump Organization is far more internationally oriented and has far more dealings, as a business, with foreign governments and foreign entities than does the Kushner Companies, which is Jared’s company, which is mostly a New Jersey and Maryland company, or has been, until the sort of regal marriage of Jared Kushner to Ivanka Trump.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and while he is being deputized by the president to handle all of these diplomatic issues, meanwhile, the State Department continues to be suffering from a lack of appointments by the administration—

AMY WILENTZ: Right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —of either career officials moving up or other ambassadors being appointed.

AMY WILENTZ: Yes. Trump has had a difficult time. First of all, I don’t think he has a lot of interest—President Trump, this is, not Donald Jr.—in appointing ambassadors. He doesn’t have a wide reach of experts in foreign affairs who are his friends, which is a traditional method for presidents to appoint their people to ambassadorships. And he doesn’t have that much interest, either, in moving up the career officials. So what happens is, a lot of countries are left like wondering, "Who am I supposed to deal with? There is no ambassador to my country, and the desk for my country in the State Department is sort of empty. Who do I go to in the U.S. for my country?" And I think one of the unfortunate elements of this is not only has Jared been put in charge of a lot of big portfolios—for example, China and peace in the Middle East—but smaller countries are left befuddled also, not knowing where to go, and Jared isn’t that interested in them.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the stories told, Denmark approached their Miss Universe, hoping maybe she had a link to someone who could reach out to the White House, because they just couldn’t figure out how to do it.

AMY WILENTZ: Right, yeah. Right.

AMY GOODMAN: But let’s talk more about Jared Kushner, because, actually, his experience in being a developer in the Baltimore area, in New Jersey, in Jersey City, actually, you point out, does give him experience in dealing with other countries. Explain how, and how this actually creates a conflict of interest today.

AMY WILENTZ: Well, one of the sort of amusing stories about the Kushner Companies, when you think of them in light of Jared’s role in the administration, is that they’ve been a kind of mom-and-pop operation themselves in Jersey and Baltimore. They own something like 20,000 units of housing in the Baltimore area. And they’re very aggressive landlords. And they have instigated something like 550 suits against tenants. And I often think that this sort of makes Jared a good envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian situation, since his company behaves, in a sense, like the Israelis in the Occupied Territories—pushing people out of their housing, pushing people out of the places they thought were home. So, that kind of gives him some experience...


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