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Pitch To Chinese Investors From Kushner Real Estate Firm Raises Questions


So over the weekend, a Chinese company in Beijing played host to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner's sister. Nicole Kushner Meyer was there trying to gain investors for Kushner properties. And she told the group a big investment could result in a permanent immigration visa to the United States. This event was held in a hotel ballroom.

Emily Rauhala of The Washington Post was there and joins us on the line via Skype. Emily, good morning.

EMILY RAUHALA: Good morning. How are you doing?

GREENE: I'm good. So I said you were there. You were sort of there, right? You couldn't actually get access to this meeting.

RAUHALA: That's right. Just to set the scene, it was Saturday afternoon in Beijing around 2 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in a ballroom. I walked in, identified myself as a reporter and was seated and shortly after that was asked to leave the premises.

GREENE: Even though this was like - this was a public event. I mean, it was announced and open to the public presumably.

RAUHALA: It was a publically advertised event. So the Chinese partners that the Kushners are working with had advertised this immigrant investor visa event at the Ritz-Carlton. And there was ads in, you know, elevators of buildings in Beijing and around town.

GREENE: Nothing saying if you're a journalist, you can't come. So what - Nicole Kushner Meyer's role in Kushner Companies, I mean, she's there, you know, trying to help her family company. What exactly was she doing? And what was the reaction there?

RAUHALA: Sure. So Nicole does have a formal role in the family business. And so this was a Kushner Companies event. And she was there to sort of represent the family. And, you know, as I said in my story, she opened with an anecdote about her family, saying, you know, we started out as refugees, and we've since, you know, made it. And I think, you know, the implications - and she was addressing a group of potential investors and immigrants - was that, you know, they could make it too if they invested with Kushner Companies.

GREENE: They could make it, too. Now, we should say, I mean, it's obviously far from easy to immigrate to the United States. How does the program work? If they were to invest - the people there - big time in this Kushner project, they would have a better chance of getting a visa?

RAUHALA: Yeah. It's a special class of visa called the immigrant investor visa or the EB-5 visa. It's, you know, recognized in legal visa classes to the United States, used by many companies. Basically how it works is the idea is that you invest $500,000 approximately in projects.

These projects - the idea is that they'll create jobs in the United States, create wealth and growth in the United States. And in return, it opens a path of citizenship. So it's a legal visa category but one that has been under a lot of criticism from Congress and others. You know, people are saying are we selling U.S. citizenship?

GREENE: OK? So let me work this through. Jared Kushner has divested himself of any involvement in his family's company, but he's a senior adviser. I mean, he is the president's son-in-law. So you have president's son-in-law's sister going and saying invest in her company and you have a better chance of getting a visa. Is there some kind of conflict of interest here?

RAUHALA: That's the accusation. The question is whether the company is using the affiliation to the president to help, you know, basically do business. In this case, that was advertised as, you know, Jared's sister is in town. So critics have said basically that, you know, this is a potential conflict of interests for the Kushner family.

GREENE: OK. Emily Rauhala is The Washington Post's China correspondent. She joined us on Skype. Emily, thanks a lot.

RAUHALA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JANA SOLEIL'S "EVE-TEASING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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