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Kushner In Probe Crosshairs As Mueller Shifts From Russia To China

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his interest in Jared Kushner's contacts with Russians to encompass the young real estate mogul's efforts to secure financing from foreign investors for his troubled 666 Fifth Avenue property, CNN reports.

If true, it would mark a significant departure from Mueller's mandate to investigate Russian influence in the 2016 election - as Kushner's discussions with Chinese investors are now on the table. 

Mueller's team began asking questions over Kushner's efforts to shore up troubled loans for the beleaguered 666 Fifth Avenue property - first profiled here all the way back in 2009 - and purchased by Kushner in December 2006 for $1.8 billion, financed entirely with debt. 

In September 2017, the Washington Post reported "With one-fourth of its offices empty, lease revenue does not cover monthly interest payments, according to lending documents. A $1.2 billion mortgage, with escalating interest rates, comes due in 18 months. A ratings agency has classified a $115 million portion of the loan as 'troubled,' and company officials decline to say whether it will be fully repaid."

Kushner divested from the 666 Fifth Avenue property in early 2017, with his interests sold to a family trust that Kushner does not benefit from - a spokesman said at the time. During the transition, however, Kushner reportedly met with Sergey Gorkov, chairman of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank - which the Presidential son-in-law told Congress was for official US government purposes. The Russian bank, however, maintains that the meeting was part of their "roadshow of business meetings," and that the sit-down was arranged due to Kushner's role as the head of Kushner Companies. Mueller has reportedly been scrutinizing this meeting. 

Kushner spoke with Mueller's investigators in November for less than two hours, primarily about Michael Flynn, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

From China to Qatar

Of interest to Mueller's probe are discussions between Kushner and Chinese investors during the transition, according to sources familiar with the investigation. 

In particular, Kushner met with executives of troubled Chinese conglomerate Anbang Insurance which also owns the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City locate four blocks away from the 666 5th avenue property. Talks between Kushner and Anbang's chairman, Wu Xiaohui, broke down in March 2017, according to the New York Times

Also of interest to Mueller are Kushner's dealings with a Qatari investor over the 666 property, for which Kusher reportedly sought financing from former Prime Minister Jassim Al Thani, according to The Intercept. The discussion apparently went nowhere, similar to the Anbang deal.

A devil of a time with 666

After Kushner bought the Fifth Avenue property in late 2006 for $1.8 billion - with zero skin in the game coming from Kushner, the building came under intense pressure during the financial crisis. Vornado Realty Trust stepped in with financing in exchange for a 49.5% stake in the building, which is now carring over $1.4 billion in debt according to a March release by Vornado. 

In March 2017, Zaha Hadid Architects announced a $12 billion plan to build a 1,400 foot, 464,000 sqft. skyscraper for the Kushner organization to replace the current building, which will include retail space, eleven stories devoted to a hotel, and a new address - changed to 660 5th avenue in order to shed the building's current and ominous 666 designation.

The new construction would be completed by 2025 at the earliest, and would face a park after razing an entire block of buildings. 

Eternal symbol of Kushner/Trump dynasty, looming over Manhattan like a Swarovski phallus https://t.co/HpcE9j38cy

— Tero Kuittinen (@teroterotero)

appropriate that Jared Kushner would erect a giant middle finger.https://t.co/lyBDl1TgJn

— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty)

Indeed.