In what ethics experts are calling a glaring direct conflict of interest, a significant business partner of both President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is pursuing a $2 billion government contract to build new headquarters for the FBI.
“It creates a huge conflict,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who sits on the House Oversight Committee. “It’s an enormous project. The exposure here for the Trump administration is very real.”
Vornado Realty Trust, a giant New York real estate firm whose founder and chairman, Steven Roth, is a longtime friend of and occasional adviser to Trump, is one of three finalists for the rights to develop a new FBI headquarters and campus in the Washington, D.C., region. Roth is helping head up Trump’s infrastructure advisory council and traveled with the president as he rolled out his plans last week, briefly sharing the stage with him in Cincinnati — with Trump introducing him to the crowd as one of “the greatest builders in America.”
Through business partnerships with both the Trump Organization and the Kushner Co., Roth’s firm has a level of financial co-dependence with the first family that Connolly said could spark intense debate over the Trump administration’s handling of potential conflicts.
Vornado and the Trump Organization are jointly invested in two buildings: one in Manhattan and another in San Francisco. Vornado is also in the midst of negotiations with the Kushner Co. about the future of a troubled investment by Kushner’s family in a New York City skyscraper at 666 Fifth Ave., according to a Kushner Co. spokesman. The company came to the rescue of the Kushners when it agreed to an arrangement that gave Vornado 49.5 percent of the office portion of the New York tower and 70 percent of the retail space.
Through a spokesman, Kushner told ABC News he will work hard to avoid any conflict between his White House work and his family business.