Editorial: Kushner is Trump; Trump is Kushner

  • Jared Kushner attends a meeting between President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Wednesday. AP

Friday, June 02, 2017

Jared Kushner would be a moderating influence on his decidedly immoderate father-in-law. That was the hope, anyway.

The political values of the young real estate investor and his wife, Ivanka Trump, seemed to be “inoffensively Bloombergian,” as Andrew Rice put it in a January profile for the New Yorker. But Rice had bad news for anybody who saw Kushner as a whispering angel on Donald Trump’s shoulder: They are more alike than it appears.

That observation has proven to be accurate – and we’re not even talking about Russia. 

In a lengthy piece published in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis opened the door to an unglamorous empire where Kushner reigns as the aggressively litigious landlord of thousands of “distress-ridden” rental units in cities such as Toledo, Ohio; Pittsburgh; and Baltimore. 

MacGillis, a former Monitor reporter, began his piece with the story of Kamiia Warren, who lived in a townhouse in the Baltimore suburb of Essex for years until difficulties with a neighbor necessitated a move in 2010. Warren gave the required two months’ notice that she was transferring her Section 8 voucher, and paperwork filled out by the complex’s manager said she acted in accordance with the terms of her lease. 

Three years later, Warren found out she was being sued for $3,014.08 by the new owner of the complex: Kushner’s JK2 Westminster LLC.

The company said she violated the terms of her lease by leaving early, even though she had written permission to do so. In court, the $3,000 and change wasn’t enough for Kushner. He wanted court costs, attorney’s fees and interest tacked on. By the time JK2 was done with Warren, a single mother, she owed nearly $5,000. She couldn’t afford to pay, so Kushner’s company garnished her bank account – all $900 of it – and placed a lien against her. She begged for mercy and they told her to pay up.

Warren was far from the only target. MacGillis’s search of the Maryland District Court database system alone returned 548 cases in which JK2 Westminster was the plaintiff. Kushner Companies, the parent of the now-dissolved JK2 Westminster, told MacGillis that it was obliged to collect as much revenue for its ownership partners as it could.

Business is a piece of cake, it seems, when you subtract conscience from the equation.

We understand Kushner isn’t the only landlord in the country who relentlessly pursues former or current tenants for unpaid money, no matter how small the amount. (If you want more insight into the world Kushner inhabits, read Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer-winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.) But he is the only one who, at the moment, has the ear of a president who claims to be a champion of the working class. Based on what we’ve long known about Trump and what we are learning about Kushner, the bond they share was forged by greed.

Trump won the hearts of millions of Americans in large part because he promised to revive the American dream. He promised to fight for hard-working men and women choking on the dust of globalization. Daily, he tweets out a lullaby of lies and conspiracies, promising that if the believers close their eyes to the facts, they will wake up in a Leave it to Beaver world.

But it is wealth he cares about, all he has ever cared about. Trump is Kushner, and Kushner is Trump. If you want to reserve a spot in their America, you’d better pay up. And you’d better keep on paying – until there’s nothing left.