Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Flickr jared kushner sitting awkwardly...
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Flickr

Jared Kushner must feel like he’s living in a sauna these days as heat increases from not only Trump-Russia but from his own low life slumlord dealings. Yesterday a Federal Judge in Maryland ruled that Kushner’s real estate company had to reveal the identities of its partners in Baltimore area apartment complexes which are the subject of a class action suit filed by tenants last September. 

“Tenants in more than a dozen Baltimore-area rental complexes complain about a property owner who they say leaves their homes in disrepair, humiliates late-paying renters and often sues them when they try to move out. Few of them know that their landlord is the president’s son-in-law,” wrote ProPublica last May in an expose of conditions in Kushner’s buildings which led to the class action suit being filed. Briefly, Kushner’s company has been harassing low income people, who for openers, are expected to live with the most egregious and inhumane conditions possible, mold beneath the carpets, black sinks, maggots falling from the ceiling and raw sewage.

When tenants seek to dispute or escape from this hell they are systematically harassed, charged late fees that are often baseless and in excess of state limits and court fees that are not actually approved by any court. The late fees and court fees “set in motion a vicious cycle in which rent payments are partly put toward the fees instead of the actual rent owed, thus deeming the tenant once again “late” on his or her rent payment, leading to yet more late fees and court fees. Tenants are pressured to pay the snowballing bills with immediate threat of eviction,” according to the suit. 

But even that’s not enough to satisfy the greed of JK2Westminster, the Kushner company. When people have moved out they are pursued by Kushner’s collection attorneys who garnish wages from former tenants, including tenants who have moved out lawfully. A single mother of three was told by Kushner’s collection lawyer, “This is not going to go away. You will pay us.” The woman had done nothing wrong. She gave proper notice and received written permission to leave and still she was served with a frivolous lawsuit.

Naturally, Kushner’s lawyers have fought the specific issue of disclosure of partners’ identities, by implying how unfair it all is to Kushner and the First Family — but they’re not getting away with it. ProPublica:

Given the tenor of the media’s reporting of this case, including politically-motivated innuendo no doubt intended to disparage the First Family, there is foreseeable risk of prejudice to the privacy rights and reputations of innocent private investors,” wrote Westminster Management, Kushner Companies’ real estate management arm, in a court filing in November.

This request to seal the partners’ identities was challenged several weeks later in a joint filing by ProPublica, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Baltimore TV station WMAR-TV. They argued that the press had a “presumptive right” to view court documents, and that the Kushner Companies had not identified the “compelling government interest” that is required to block public access.

In fact, Kushner’s attorneys’ argument backfired on them. U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar stated that, if anything, the high level of public interest in Kushner and his business associates was an argument for providing access to the identities of the defendants in the case. 

“The Defendants are no doubt correct that the presence of the Kushner (and therefore Trump) families in this case has raised its profile and attracted significant, though perhaps not ‘unprecedented,’ media attention,” Bedar wrote. “But increased public interest in a case does not, by itself, overcome the presumption of access. In fact, it would logically strengthen it, particularly when the interest is due to the presence of important public figures in the litigation. In such an instance, the public’s desire to evaluate the Court’s decision-making is likely augmented. And beyond this apparently inevitable media scrutiny, Defendants have largely relied on ‘vague superlatives’ and insinuations instead of demonstrating specific harms.”

Several recent news reports have given a hint of just how far-reaching the network of investors in the Maryland apartment complexes could be. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Kushner Companies last spring secured a $30 million equity investment in the Baltimore complexes and others of its holdings from Menora Mivtachim, one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, just as Jared Kushner was about to make his first official visit to Israel as President Trump’s designated broker of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. More recently, a New Yorker article described the Kushner Companies’ aggressive pursuit of Chinese investors in its real estate ventures.

As Jared’s collection attorney told the woman who was innocent, “This isn’t going away. You’re going to pay us.” Turnabout is fair play. This isn’t going to go away either and Kushner’s going to pay dearly and that is only just. Jared Kushner has made a lot of money off of the misery and willful harassment of the vulnerable and marginalized and soon it’s going to come time to pay the piper. Kushner belongs in prison. 

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