Access to the presidency offers privileges few others could ever hope to access. However, family members and business partners occasionally have been known to take advantage of that access in ways that some would find unethical, if not potentially illegal.
Jared Kushner, who runs the private equity fund Affinity Partners, allegedly failed to divest himself from the family’s business interests at the same time he was serving as a senior adviser for his father-in-law, Donald Trump, during his time in the White House. That seeming conflict of interest has since landed him threats of a potential investigation by House Oversight Committee Democrats for a $2 billion investment he received from a fund led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman six months after Trump left office.
Then there’s Hunter Biden, the son of current President Joe Biden, who currently finds himself under a maelstrom of scrutiny by House Oversight Republicans for allegedly exploiting his familial connections to secure lucrative deals with foreign companies like Ukrainian gas giant Burisma. That relationship, fueled by leaked emails from a hard drive on the younger Biden’s laptop, have sparked allegations from Republicans of a wide-ranging, but ill-defined influence-peddling scheme involving himself and his father, who was vice president under former President Barack Obama at the time. The allegations have been denied by the White House and Hunter Biden’s lawyers.
Republicans have sought to depict both issues different from one another. In a recent interview with CNN‘s Jake Tapper, James Comer—the Kentucky Republican leading the Biden probe—said that while he believed what Kushner did was wrong, the alleged transgressions “happened after he left office.”
Meanwhile, Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, reportedly made as much as $640 million during their time in office, a 2021 investigation by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found, while both continued to do business with foreign interests while working in the White House during Trump’s administration.
In a letter addressed to Comer on Thursday, Representative Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, urged him to apply a similar scrutiny to Kushner after the committee’s efforts to investigate his foreign business deals had been rebuffed—despite Comer’s claims Kushner had, in fact, sat for questioning.
“Mr. Kushner has never been interviewed by the Oversight Committee or, to the best of my knowledge, any other Congressional committee about his extraordinary business dealings with Saudi Arabia,” Raskin wrote in his letter. “Mr. Kushner was indeed interviewed by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, a panel on which I served, about his knowledge of the violent insurrection at the Capitol—a completely different episode of wrongdoing. As a Member of the Select Committee who interviewed Mr. Kushner, I can assure you that he was not asked a single question about his Saudi Arabian business activities as this would have been outside the scope of our investigative questioning. The transcripts will certainly bear this out.”
However, while Hunter Biden never served an official role in his father’s administration or that of his predecessor, Kushner was given high-stakes positions in roles where he was regularly responsible for U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East.
Given Comer’s repeated assertions that the committee was committed to “investigating foreign nationals’ attempts to target and coerce high-ranking U.S. officials’ family members by providing money or other benefits in exchange for certain actions,” Raskin wrote, Kushner was likely deserving of similar scrutiny.
“I agree that passing legislation to, in your words, ‘set a line as to where you can be with relatives of high-ranking government officials with respect to doing business with adversaries overseas’ is absolutely worthy of the Committee’s time and resources,” wrote Raskin.
“However, as I hope you would agree, we cannot ‘set a line’ without the critical facts giving rise to bipartisan concern. The Committee cannot conduct credible oversight without examining the plethora of actual and potential ethical violations of the previous Administration, including the fact that Mr. Kushner, a senior White House official, received $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund shortly after leaving a position he used to reshape U.S. foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia.”
Raskin’s Republican colleagues responded to the Democratic lawmaker’s letter in a statement to Newsweek.
“Ranking Member Raskin’s letter to Chairman Comer is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the mounting evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement in his family’s influence peddling schemes,” a House Oversight Committee Republican spokesperson said. “If Ranking Member Raskin was truly concerned about ethics in government, then he would join Republicans in our investigation of the Bidens’ blatant corruption. However, Ranking Member Raskin is only concerned about playing Biden family defense lawyer.”
Newsweek reached out to a spokesperson for Raskin by phone for comment.