Wealth a defining feature of aides to Trump, who ran as friend of working class

In Nation
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New documents released Friday night by the White House revealed hard numbers showing how President Trump, who campaigned as a champion of the working class, has surrounded himself with a circle of wealthy advisers.

The documents showed that Trump’s top aides have generated millions of dollars from Wall Street, Hollywood, real estate and the media, reporting a range of investments that intensify the administration’s challenge in navigating potential intersections between officials’ personal finances and their policymaking roles.

The list of well-heeled White House officials includes Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom reported property and investment holdings worth between $241 million and $740 million, filings show. That includes more than $600 million worth of Kushner real estate in New York and New Jersey as well as other assets, much of which Kushner says he has divested.

Gary Cohn, a former top Goldman Sachs executive who is now director of the National Economic Council, reported earning at least $40 million last year and had assets worth at least $250 million, making him one of the wealthiest people in the administration.

Earlier financial disclosures revealed that Trump’s Cabinet — which includes two billionaires and several multimillionaires — is the in modern American history, a quality that he has trumpeted as a sign of his aides’ smarts.

The new filings show how Trump has tapped members of the financial elite to serve as his closest aides.

His chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, held assets worth between $11.8 million and $53.8 million. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, earned nearly $850,000 in the past year and held assets worth between $10 million and as much as $39 million. White House General Counsel Donald F. McGahn has assets worth between $1.8 million and $7.1 million. His income at Jones Day law firm, where he was a partner, was $2.4 million last year.

Even Julia Hahn, Bannon’s 25-year-old aide, held assets worth between $1.1 million and $2.5 million.

The White House on Friday held up the wealth of its staffers as a badge of honor.

“The president has brought a lot of people into this administration, into 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 the government by setting aside a lot of assets,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing earlier in the day.

Trump, who last disclosed his finances during the campaign, is not required to release more details until next year.

The complex holdings of many top administration officials create potential conflicts of interest that the White House must navigate, a process that is underway in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics.

The filings show that Bannon earned at least $917,000 in the past 12 months, drawing at least $545,000 in the past year from four ventures backed by the wealthy Mercer family, underscoring how he has been with the influential Trump mega-donors

He was paid $191,000 in consulting fees by Breitbart News Network, where he served as executive chairman until joining the Trump campaign in August. That is a significant drop from 2013, when Bannon on a rental application that he was making $750,000 at the website.

Last year, Bannon earned $167,500 more for consulting and directing by Glittering Steel, the production company he launched with Rebekah Mercer that financed the documentary “Clinton Cash.”

Cambridge Analytica, a data science company that worked for Trump’s campaign, paid Bannon $125,333 in consulting fees for his work as vice president and secretary of the board. And the Government Accountability Institute, an investigative think tank whose president wrote the book “Clinton Cash,” gave Bannon a $61,539 salary as chairman.

The disclosure form provides the first public window into the finances of Trump’s peripatetic strategist, who has continued to draw funds as a Hollywood producer and director.

Bannon was paid $100,000 in directing fees from a production company affiliated with the advocacy group Citizens United.

And he reported earning between $50,001 and $100,000 from Société Générale, stemming from a he formed with the French banking giant in 1996. Bannon, who specialized at the time in media investment banking, sold his firm — Bannon and Co. — to a subsidiary of the French bank in 1998. The French company worked closely with Bannon on a variety of deals, including one in which Bannon represented PolyGram, a music and film company that was sold to Seagram’s.

The strategist had significant cash reserves as he headed into the White House, reporting at least $1.1 million in three different U.S. bank accounts.

The forms show how Breitbart News has served as a pipeline for the White House, with the site’s payments to Bannon and two other staffers, Bannon aide Hahn and National Security Council aide Sebastian Gorka, totaling more than $246,000 over the past year.

Financial disclosure forms provide only a rough picture of financial wealth and liabilities. For some categories, the disclosure forms use broad ranges. The official filling out the form also has discretion in assigning value to assets such as real estate and artwork.

The disclosures also show that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have property and investment holdings worth as much as roughly $740 million. That includes more than $600 million worth of Kushner real estate in New York and New Jersey as well as other assets, much of which Kushner says he has divested.

Between January 2016 and March 2017, Kushner’s filings show, Ivanka Trump earned between $1 million and $5 million on Trump International Hotel Washington, the luxury hotel project that opened last year in a government-owned building near the White House. The value of Ivanka Trump’s stake in the hotel was estimated at between $5 million and $25 million, filings show.

Kushner, who in January stepped down as chief executive of his family’s real estate firm, Kushner Companies, will remain a beneficiary of most of the business’s real estate ventures through a series of trusts, according to ethics documents reported by the New York Times. In essence, he will no longer officially have management control of the company but will retain a large financial interest.

The Kushner company has taken out loans from Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Deutsche Bank, the German financial giant that is also President Trump’s biggest lender, filings show. The company also borrowed money from the French bank Natixis and Israel’s biggest bank, Bank Hapoalim, now under investigation by the Department of Justice, according to documents reported by the Times.

Kushner’s filing shows he also has up to $95 million in borrowed money, much of it in the form of unsecured lines of credit held jointly with his father, from lenders including Deutsche and one of Israel’s largest banks, Israel Discount Bank.

Ivanka Trump, who this week was officially named assistant to the president, will no longer serve in management roles but will continue to receive money from her fashion-merchandising brand and her family’s private company, the Trump Organization, the Times said. The payments will come as fixed payments from the Trump family’s luxury brokerage, T International Realty, and two real estate subsidiaries, the filings show.

Ivanka Trump, like her father, had moved her clothing and jewelry companies into a trust valued at more than $50 million, disclosures show. The trust is overseen by two of her in-laws and can be revoked at any time.

Kushner’s filing, like his father-in-law’s disclosure, offers lofty valuations for Kushner real estate holdings that may be higher than what they would be appraised for or sell for on public markets.

Amy Brittain, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Michael Kranish, Robert O’Harrow, Ashley Parker, Lisa Rein and Steven Rich contributed to this report.

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