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Kushner didn’t tell officials about art collection – report

Pieces worth millions hang in couple’s NY condo; lawyer says they’ll add the assets to their financial disclosures

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump make their way across the South Lawn to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC on May 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump make their way across the South Lawn to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC on May 4, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump reportedly failed to report their art collection in required financial disclosures before taking up their roles in the White House.

Kushner who acts as a senior aide to the president, and Ivanka Trump who serves as an unpaid assistant to her father, have amassed a sizable collection of contemporary art, Artwork News reported on Thursday.

The artwork that hangs in their Park Avenue condo has been showcased in photo shoots and is estimated to be worth millions. Ivanka has posted many of the artworks on her Instagram account.

Whereas other senior members of the Trump administration disclosed their art holdings, Kushner and Trump did not disclose theirs to the Office of Government Ethics. Artnet reported that “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross disclosed an art collection worth at least $50 million. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed his stake in a $14.7 million Willem de Kooning painting, plus other artworks.”

A laywer for Kushner said that the artwork was merely decorative and not an investment, though the couple had sold one piece. However, he added that the art would be added to the disclosure.

“Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump display their art for decorative purposes and have made only a single sale,” he said in a statement issued by the White House. “To avoid any doubt, however, they will report their art collection.”

Artwork held as an investment and worth more than $1,000 must be reported, according to the OGE, but pieces for “decorative or artistic purposes” are “not normally” considered to be an investment. Regular sales of the artworks are an indicator that the pieces are not merely decorative.

A Washington ethics lawyer, Robert Walker, told Artnet that a single sale would not require financial disclosure.

“One can conclude that there is an investment purpose if there is regular activity of selling or buying pieces of artwork,” he says. “A single sale does not necessarily mean that Kushner will need to disclose his art assets.”

However, since the artwork is regularly featured as a backdrop to Ivanka’s business marketing there are some who say it must be disclosed.

Craig Holman, of the public watchdog group Public Citizen, told Artnet that, “The art is being used to promote the business interests. It may draw people into it, especially for something like a line of clothing, and cultural business activities that Ivanka Trump stands for,” Holman told Artnet News. “It should be fully disclosed.”

In 2015, Trump posted an article on her website entitled, “How to start collecting art.” The article ends with a section which says, “Think of art as an investment.”

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A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump)

A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to requests for comment from Artnet.

It was also disclosed on Thursday that Kushner’s activities have come under FBI scrutiny as part of the probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, according to US media.

Although it is unclear whether Kushner is a main focus of the probe, he is under investigation for the “extent and nature” of his interaction with Russian officials, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

NBC News, citing unnamed US officials, also reported that the FBI is looking at Kushner but emphasized that although investigators believe he has “significant information relevant to their inquiry,” it does not mean they suspect him of a crime.

AFP contributed to this report.

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