Watchdog claims Ivanka Trump violated conflict of interest law with involvement in 'opportunity zones' program

A watchdog group is accusing the President's daughter, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, of violating...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 6:13 PM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 6:13 PM

A watchdog group is accusing the President's daughter, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, of violating the conflict of interest law by participating in the implementation of a program that gives tax breaks for investors in so-called "opportunity zones."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is asking the Justice Department to investigate whether Trump's involvement in the "Opportunity Zones" program violated the conflict of interest law, which prohibits executive branch employees from participating in a matter that has a direct effect on either their or their spouse's financial interest.

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"Ms. Trump was required to recuse from participating in the implementation of the opportunity zones program. She clearly did not," CREW wrote in its letter dated Friday to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "Thus, Ms. Trump appears to have participated in a particular matter that affects her imputed financial interests, and may have violated the conflict of interest law."

Peter Mirijanian -- the spokesperson for Abbe Lowell, Trump's ethics attorney -- called CREW's request "a politically motivated and meritless complaint."

"The Opportunity Zones legislation is a broad-sweeping, bi-partisan policy that impacts nearly 35 million Americans in communities designated by each state's governor as underserved and in need of investment," Mirijanian said in a statement provided to CNN. "Ms. Trump is proud of her work on this legislation, and she adheres to the ethics advice she has received from Counsel about what issues she can work on and those to which she is recused."

Trump's financial assets are still tied to her husband Jared Kushner, who has a stake of up to $50 million in the New York-based real estate investment firm Cadre.

Cadre announced in November that it was soliciting investments in the opportunity zones, or economically distressed communities, though it's unclear whether it has yet begun investing or will claim the program's tax benefits.

CREW alleged Cadre could benefit from raising these funds for the opportunity zones, creating a financial conflict of interest for Trump.

The watchdog group pointed to Trump's participation in a February 2018 roundtable at the White House, an October 2018 presentation at the White House and the signing ceremony for the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council last month. Opportunity Zones

"Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have continued to conduct themselves in ways that create a real possibility that they are capitalizing on their roles as government officials to enrich themselves," said Noah Bookbinder, CREW's executive director, in a statement. "Government employees should never work on matters affecting their own finances, but Ivanka Trump appears to have done just that."

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