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 $240m while the New York Times, making a case that Kushner will continue to benefit from most of his business empire through a series of trusts, gave a figure of $741m.
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, the AP reported. But his lawyers, in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, determined that his property assets are unlikely to pose the kinds of conflicts that would trigger a need to divest.
Jamie Gorelick, a lawyer who has been working on the ethics agreements for the couple, told the AP: “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 $5m and $25m and say she earned between $1m and $5m from January 2016 to March 2017.
The hotel, where the president sometimes dines just a few blocks the White House, has raised concerns that foreign governments or special interest groups could stay there in order to gain political favours.
With Trump favouring Wall Street and fellow billionaires, 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.
A pie chart released to the media showed that, whereas incoming Obama employees’ finances eight years ago were found to be “simple” or “moderate” by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), the Trump appointees’ holdings were judged “complex” or “extremely complex”.
"I think there is an element of going above and beyond what has been done in the past to make sure that people have access to this," Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters. "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 by setting aside a lot of assets.
“And I think it speaks volumes to the desire for a lot of these people to fulfill the president’s vision and move the agenda forward that they are willing to list all of their assets, undergo this public scrutiny, but also set aside a lot.”
But when asked if Trump would release his tax returns in the same spirit, Spicer replied: “I think that’s apples and oranges. These are required by law.”
The documents release does not include OGE agreements with employees on what they must do to avoid potential conflicts of interest. 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 $13m and $56m including, most valuably, his political consultancy Bannon Strategic Advisors, worth up to $25m. Bannon earned just under $200,000 last year as executive director of the Breitbart News Network, an outlet accused of peddling rightwing conspiracy theories, before he quit to join Trump's election campaign last August.
Bannon’s consulting firm pulled in more than $125,000 from Cambridge Analytica last year. He has between a $1 million and $5 million stake in the data firm, but the disclosure said he has an “agreement in principle” to sell his investment. Bannon also held bank accounts valued at up to $2.25m and a rental property worth as much as $10.5m.
Kellyanne Conway, who became the first female campaign manager to successfully elect a president, was worth as much as $40 million before being named counselor to the president, derived mostly from investments and her salary at her personal political consulting firm, the polling company/WomanTrend.
Conway earned, through her company, slightly more than $800,000 in business income for her work in 2016. The business is worth between $1 million and $5 million, according to her disclosure statement.
Most of Conway's assets, more than $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 in drug giant Pfizer, snack food companies Kraft Heinz and Mondelez, and tobacco companies Altria and Philip Morris. Those stock holdings are comparatively minor, amounting to less than $200,000 of her net worth.
Conway gave speeches or provided consulting services to dozens of political interest groups, mostly advocating conservative causes. She also gave a paid speech to Point 72 Asset Management, the firm owned by billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.
Gary Cohn, who left Goldman Sachs to become director of Trump's National Economic Council, received at least $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 $1m in income from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which the White House says he is in the process of divesting.