Donald Trump

White House staff finance files raise conflict of interest concerns

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 11:28pm

Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, are retaining scores of property investments while they work in the White House, according to financial disclosures likely to fuel concerns over a conflict of interest.

The Associated Press reported that the couple are holding on to assets of at least US$240 million while the New York Times gave a figure of US$741 million.

The details came to light on Friday as the White House began releasing financial disclosure forms for around 180 top administration officials, offering a snapshot of the employees’ finances as they entered the White House.

Kushner, senior adviser to the president, quit more than 260 entities and sold off 58 businesses or investments identified as posing potential conflicts of interest AP reported.

Jamie Gorelick, an attorney who has been working on ethics agreements for the couple, said: “The remaining conflicts, from a practical perspective, are pretty narrow and very manageable.”

Ivanka will keep a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the New York Times said.

Kushner’s financial disclosures put the value of Ivanka’s stake at between US$5 million and $25 million and say she earned up to US$5 million from January 2016 to March 2017.

The hotel a few blocks the White House, has raised concerns that foreign governments or special interest groups could stay there to gain political favours.

The White House has made little secret of the fact that the current staff’s net worth is thought to be the richest in US history.

“The president has brought a lot of people into this administration, and this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful by this country, and have given up a lot to come into government,”press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

A senior administration official declined to say how many millionaires and billionaires hold positions in the White House.

Ivanka agreed this week to become a federal employee and will file her own financial disclosure at a later date. The president must also file periodic financial disclosures, but he is not required to make another disclosure until next year.

Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, disclosed assets between US$13 million and US$56 million including his political consultancy Bannon Strategic Advisers, worth up to US$25 million. Bannon earned just under US$200,000 last year as executive director of the Breitbart News Network before he quit to join Trump’s election campaign last August.

Bannon’s consulting firm pulled in more than US$125,000 from Cambridge Analytica last year. He has between a US$1 million and US$5 million stake in the data firm, but the disclosure said he has an agreement to sell his investment. Bannon also held bank accounts valued at up to US$2.25 million and a rental property worth as much as US$10.5 million.

Kellyanne Conway was worth as much as US$40 million before being named counsellor to the president, derived mostly from investments and her salary at her consulting firm, the polling company/WomanTrend.

Conway earned, through her company, slightly more than US$800,000 in business income in 2016. The business is worth between US$1 million and US$5 million, according to her disclosure statement.

Most of Conway’s assets, more than US$31 million, are held in cash or money-market accounts, probably because she had to sell most of her investments before taking a job in the White House. She does still own stock Pfizer, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez, Altria and Philip Morris. Those stock holdings amount to less than US$200,000 of her net worth.

Gary Cohn, who left Goldman Sachs to become director of Trump’s National Economic Council, received at least US$40 million in income from Goldman Sachs-related dividends, interest, salary and bonuses, about half of which was in some form of stock compensation. Cohn also reported more than US$1 million in income from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which the White House says he is in the process of divesting.