As chief executive of his family’s real estate empire, Jared Kushner planned two apartment projects across the street from each other in Jersey City.
Both would be luxury skyscrapers, complete with retail space and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. A new crosswalk would connect them, intended to link the two Kushner Cos. developments practically and visually.
But when Kushner prepared an ethics plan ahead of joining the White House as a top adviser to his father-in-law, President Trump, he drew a curious distinction between the two projects. He sold his stake in one while keeping his share of up to $5 million in the other.
Kushner, 36, who is emerging as a singularly powerful figure in the Trump White House, is keeping nearly 90 percent of his vast real estate holdings even after resigning from the family business and pledging a clear divide between his private interests and public duties.
The value of his retained real estate interests is between $132 million and $407 million and could leave him in a position to financially benefit from his family’s business.
The documents reflect the opaque decisions that Kushner and his attorneys made to allow him to keep much of his outside investments while seeking to remain within the boundaries that government ethics officials would find acceptable.
Kushner’s form lists hundreds of private companies. Some of the investments he kept are held by shell companies that are virtually impossible to track, and Kushner has declined to make public more information on those entities.
The 124 real estate assets that Kushner has kept include residential real estate in suburban Maryland, a Times Square retail complex, and apartments across the Midwest, from Toledo to the small town of Speedway, Ind. Kushner also kept his stake in a New Jersey mobile-home park.
His decision to divest from one of the Jersey City projects, One Journal Square, gained attention this month after his sister appeared at a conference in China promoting the use of a special U.S. visa program to lure investors for the development and publicly noting her brother’s connection to the president.
The White House said Kushner had recused himself from discussions of the EB-5 visa program.
It is not clear from Kushner’s financial filings whether any of his holdings might intersect with his broad and evolving responsibilities in the White House. This week, Kushner has been close by the president during the administration’s first international trip, with stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy.
Kushner rejected a request by The Washington Post to review his ethics agreement with the White House, which would lay out the topics that he has pledged to avoid because of concerns about conflicts of interest. White House officials have said that it is a long-standing policy for the agreements to remain confidential.
As a result, ethics experts say, Kushner is asking Americans to take his word for it.
“Right now, the only thing that the public has is the assurances from the White House that everybody is complying with ethics rules,” said Don Fox, a former general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics.
Kushner declined to comment for this article. One of his attorneys, former Clinton administration Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick, said that they were “striving for simplicity” in choosing which assets to sell and which ones to keep to minimize potential areas of conflict.
For instance, Kushner sold his interests in 666 Fifth Avenue, the company’s landmark building in Manhattan, because it may be refinanced and posed many uncertainties.
He also sold his interests in a venture capital firm because of its investments in broad sectors of the economy, including a health-care company. Had he kept his interests, Kushner might have needed to recuse himself from discussions related to health care or risk violating a conflicts of interest statute.
“Jared takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration,” said Joshua Raffel, his White House spokesman.
Kushner sold some assets to a trust controlled by his mother. But his attorneys have declined to provide details about other buyers, except to say that they include other family members and third-party buyers.
Kushner’s team has said that he might sell more of his holdings. Additionally, they are filing an updated disclosure form to correct several omissions related to positions and stakes in assets that he did not previously list on his form.
Trump has cited a presidential exemption from federal ethics laws in his decision to retain ownership of his own global real estate holdings and properties such as the luxury Trump International Hotel near the White House.
Even so, Trump has been accused by Democrats and ethics experts of leveraging his presidency for personal profit. And although Trump has denied doing business in Russia, Democrats have called on federal investigators to examine his financial dealings as part of their probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Trump has also refused to release his tax returns, which could shed more light on his holdings.
But Kushner is bound by the ethics guidelines that govern members of the executive staff — including restrictions on participating in actions that could affect an official’s personal financial interest or appear to show favoritism to a close associate or family member.
In Jersey City, the dual apartment projects illustrate the complexity of Kushner’s divestiture strategy.
On one side of Sip Avenue is One Journal Square, the Kushner Cos.’ proposed two-tower apartment development that became embroiled in the EB-5 visa controversy.
On the other side, a proposed 72-story tower known as 30 Journal Square is also planned for development. Kushner held on to his individual stake — valued at between $1 million and $5 million — in the project, his disclosures show.
When asked why Kushner sold his investment in One Journal Square but kept 30 Journal Square, his attorneys issued a statement to The Post: “30 Journal Square is a separate project that did not pose the same complexities, including EB-5 financing, as One Journal Square.”
Many of the real estate properties that Kushner still owns rely on the support of financial institutions, investors and local officials — and often fall under the purview of regulatory agencies — over which he might now enjoy considerable influence.
In Maryland, Kushner has retained his stake in several Baltimore-area apartment complexes that rely on federal housing assistance. In New Jersey, Kushner has kept his multimillion dollar interests in a suburban mall complex in Monmouth County that is slated to be redeveloped in partnership with an affiliate of a Canadian firm. In Brooklyn, Kushner still owns upscale housing developments on industrial properties financed by private investors and banks.
In joining his father-in-law’s administration, Kushner exited a family business that he led for more than a decade.
He was a 24-year-old graduate student when his father, Charles, went to federal prison for witness tampering, tax evasion and making illegal campaign contributions. As the eldest son, Jared Kushner took over his family’s real estate firm, Kushner Cos. He changed the company’s focus from modest apartment buildings largely in New Jersey to luxury commercial and residential properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
In 2009, Kushner married Ivanka Trump, and he formed a bond with her father that now has him in a unique position of trust and power in the White House.
The president has charged Kushner with managing foreign relations including with the Middle East and Mexico, as well as policies affecting the opioid-
addiction crisis and veterans affairs. Kushner also heads the newly formed Office of American Innovation, designed to deal with agencies to fix problems in the federal government.
Over the years, many wealthy White House appointees have wrestled with similar questions. President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley, for example, was a former JPMorgan Chase executive who reported individual assets that could exceed $35 million.
“Anything that could possibly give an appearance of an impropriety, I sold,” Daley said in a recent telephone interview with The Post.
Daley said his financial interests were more transparent than Kushner’s because most of his investments were in publicly traded companies.
By contrast, Kushner owns stakes in limited liability companies that often have no employees, offices or websites. Some are owned through generic registered-agent offices in Dover, Del., and function as holding companies for other assets.
His initial disclosure, made public on March 31, also had omissions. Although he listed his position on the board of a real estate trading platform founded with his brother, Joshua, he did not disclose his financial stake in the company, which is known as Cadre. The omission was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The form also did not disclose Kushner’s position with another limited liability company in Delaware — “JCK Cadre.” When asked about the omission of the Delaware company by Post reporters, Kushner’s attorneys said the position would be added in an upcoming revision to his form. Officials from the White House and the Office of Government Ethics have said that revisions to the forms are common.
Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, said Kushner should go beyond what the law requires because of his close relationship with the president and the breadth of his holdings.
“We have an unprecedented situation here,” Noble said. “I think it is up to them to disclose as much as they possibly can.”
666 Fifth Avenue, from which Kushner divested, was purchased by the family company in 2007 for $1.8 billion. Kushner Cos. recently discussed an investment deal with Chinese insurance giant Anbang, according to real estate executives familiar with the deliberations. Anbang pulled out of the negotiations.
“We knew that it had the potential to be undergoing a major redevelopment, which would involve significant transactions with parties that had not yet been identified,” said another Kushner attorney, Blake Roberts. “It seemed to pose so many complications that the prudent thing to do would be for him to divest from it.”
The lawyers also thought that Kushner’s investment in Thrive Capital, a venture capital fund, could be problematic. Through Thrive, Kushner owned a stake in Oscar, a health-care company founded by his brother. Kushner has since divested from his Thrive ownership.
A review of the ethics form shows the ambiguity surrounding some of Kushner’s biggest investments.
Kushner’s most valuable asset, BFPS Ventures, is described as “real estate in New York” with a value of at least $50 million. A footnote states that “conflicting assets” within the company have been sold.
But there is no simple way to determine what BFPS actually owns. The “real estate in New York” is not specified, and city property-record searches do not show any results under the name BFPS.
Kushner’s attorneys said BFPS is an investment vehicle that includes bank accounts, stakes of Cadre and other assets.
Initially, Kushner planned to sell his entire stake in BFPS, but he later reversed course and decided to sell off only individual assets within the company that might pose a conflict.
Documents show that Kushner sold his interest in an oil and gas company in Oklahoma, known as Circle 9, to avoid conflicts concerning oil and gas issues. Kushner’s attorneys have declined to reveal what other assets were sold within BFPS. A Circle 9 representative told The Post that BFPS sold off its small interest — approximately one-quarter of 1 percent — in an affiliated passive investment company that Circle 9 manages.
“It ended up being more practical to sell the underlying investments that created the conflicts we were trying to eliminate, like Circle 9, than to sell BFPS as a whole,” said Roberts, Kushner’s attorney.
Kushner’s representatives have declined to reveal what the initialism BFPS stands for.
Michael Kranish contributed to this report.