An Unsettling Omen…

I vividly remember my first few months on the 25th floor of Indianapolis’ City-County Building. I was the brand-new Corporation Counsel, suddenly responsible for the legal affairs of the city, and getting up to speed was both imperative and disorienting. I especially remember encountering situations where City Legal had previously taken positions that seemed…odd. Situations where I would wonder “Why did they do that?”

Fast-forward three years, to my departure, and I remember thinking “Boy, I wish I could put a memo in several of these files, saying ‘I know this looks strange, but there’s a good reason we did thus and so…'” At least there were long-time employees, civil servants who could explain some of these situations to the next appointee.

In any institution, public or private, institutional memory is incredibly important. (As the salesmen sang in The Music Man, you’ve got to know the territory!) In the federal government, that store of institutional knowledge is most important in the State Department, where understanding foreign cultures, the histories of complex relationships, and the idiosyncrasies of various heads of state can be critical.

So hearing that the State Department’s entire senior administrative team has just resigned was both significant and deeply troubling. As the Washington Post reported,

The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era….All are career Foreign Service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations…

In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people.

It is difficult to overstate the impact of these mass resignations on the ability of the United States to safeguard critical American interests.

“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

As Wade emphasized,

“Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death,” he said. “The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”

America has installed a President who–to put the most charitable possible spin on it–doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And the people who could fill in the blanks–the people with the knowledge and experience to keep us safe and to protect American interests, the people who actually understand what those interests are, have bailed.

Not a good sign.

We really are in uncharted waters.


  1. Crippling the State Department is a great way to start this orange one’s administration. If he’s going to anoint the worst of the worst, then it will be much quicker for him to fail. And he will fail. I just wonder what it will take to make him resign, get impeached and how soon it will be to watch that smirking Pence take over? That’s who they really want. Read and weep.

  2. Why would anyone want to work for an emperor who wears no clothes and who refuses to hear that he wears no clothes? This administration will have the fewest competent people in high positions of any administration in history. The competent people will go work for someone who will consult them and listen to them.

  3. Sheila; had you still been in that position on the 25th floor of the Indianapolis City-County Building the first week after Goldsmith’s inauguration, you would not have had that problem to deal with. His first order was to destroy ALL files and paperwork from the Hudnut administration and huge trash bins were wheeled in all offices to accomplish this. Those of us who knew better, hid files and paperwork such as Circle Centre Mall, Canal Walk, Monon Corridor, Metropolitan Development Commission, and other vital issues, till we found a “safe” employee to hand them off to. Paranoia was rampant. His “transition team” of clones made occasional appearances after the election in November but did not work with employees, ask questions, go through files or make any attempt to learn what we did or why. Was this why the first order to destroy government documents? After the inauguration, the Goldsmith employees and appointees began taking what office equipment and furniture they wanted. I returned from lunch one day to find my entire computer system and file cabinet gone, the computer was replaced with an old one. Was an inventory the reason they made appearances or did they come back after office hours and go through files with no understanding of what they were reading?

    I again returned to the Goldsmith days because, throughout the so-called Trump “transition team” preparing for this “transition” I wondered exactly how they operated – notice I didn’t use the term “worked”. The public never knew of Goldsmith’s destruction of files and paperwork, the removal of hundreds of City employees was known early on but not those removed later. What was done – or not done which should have been – by Trump’s transition team prior to his inauguration and the mass destruction and exodus began? Is this why they are dumping employees; they learned nothing during their “transitional study”; have vital files and paperwork also been dumped? We will never know this any more than we will know what is hidden in the government archives about the President Kennedy assassination.

    “America has installed a President who–to put the most charitable possible spin on it–doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And the people who could fill in the blanks–the people with the knowledge and experience to keep us safe and to protect American interests, the people who actually understand what those interests are, have bailed.”

    We will never know what all Trump does not know but we do know he knows little about leading anyone anywhere. Nor will we know the truth about how many of those experienced people were ousted against their will and how many or who actually “bailed” of their own accord. At this point in time, on the eight day, we don’t know much more about anything than Trump does.

  4. My understanding was that they were all asked to resign. In fact, one of them was on a plane headed to Europe for a conference. He was ordered to come back immediately to resign.

  5. I actually find it hard to believ that so many top level officials would walk out and abandon their responsibilities, especially at the same time. It sounds more like a mass firing. That makes perfect sense with this administration.

    JoAnn, it sounds like you have experienced tha same atrocities at Indy that are now happening at the highest levels of our federal government.

  6. Think Peggy has it correct. Many senior administrators in departments seemed to be told to submit resignation papers, some sooner, perhaps some later. This makes sense as the new team can now place blame on those who resigned when their decision and actions do not work well. Talk about exclusivity and polarization and not being self-responsible for their own actions. This is the “new playbook” which our President has modeled and His Team will sing from. Hope we can see that it is not a tune we wish to be living ourselves. ‘Festing up is often difficult, but much more honest.

  7. You cite the loss of institutional memory as a tragic loss while Trump and his band of white nationalists see it has having removed an obstacle. I just wonder how many of these vacant positions they’ll even bother to fill and of those which one will be filled by war-monger John Bolton and how many more by Exxon employees.

  8. Let’s be a little more realistic. Trump is transitioning to FASCISM. The MOVEMENT has been going on NON-STOP; sub-surface, since around 1969/70, two steps forward, one backward, with no EFFECTIVE OPPOSITION.

    What else do you expect him to do after he WON? Are we All a bunch of FOOLS and/or “CRY BABIES”? Why don’t we try to do something EFFECTIVE for once?

  9. If we decry the loss of talented veterans in the State Department, as we should, whether by reason of resignation or being sacked, consider some of the other damage done by Trump’s picking on Muslims with his religious exclusion of their number from our shores, an act sure to increase the number of otherwise neutral Muslim people into terrorism. It sounds to me like this is one of the works of his fascist advisor, who likes to pick fights. Witness his labeling of the media as the opposition party. Such a diseased fascist mind might well like an increase in terrorism so that Trump can have an excuse to play dictator under the cover, of course, of doing his duty in providing for public safety. Hitler had his gestapo and brownshirts to provide local terrorism among the masses; perhaps Trump’s fascist adviser can (through a clueless Trump) do likewise in indirect fashion. Far out conspiracy theory? Perhaps, but I have just as much right to manufacture fact upon which to base conclusions as Trump and his Kellyannes.

  10. According to Rachel Maddow’s Friday night report; the pressure from all of the “fools” and “cry babies” is having an effect. Trump & Co., has been forced to “walk back” action on some of his Executive Orders and have been issuing “alternative facts” which cover the truth found in the “small print” included in the news. We need to seek out the “small print” while it is still allowed to be printed because Trump has full intention of taking over the Internet – thus ending reports of results of pressure being applied by the “fools” and “cry babies” with our rallies, marches, calls to elected officials at all levels, escalating memberships in trusted organization who work for America, Americans and the Constitutional rights Trump is in the process of destroying. He has taken initial steps to destroy our freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom to peaceably assemble to seek redress from this new destructive government.

    Will those ousted and resigned government officials come forward and organize; following Dan Rather’s lead to come out of retirement to take Trump down? Will President Obama and Vice President Biden come forward after a much needed and and much deserved rest to join we “fools” and “cry babies”? I do not believe they will sit idle and let Trump and Putin destroy this country. I do not believe Trump will allow the sanctions against Russia to stand because a women prefers they remain in effect; no matter the woman is the British Prime Minister and that those sanctions are not only in place by this country alone. When PM May is safely (safe from Trump’s rage) out of North America he will take steps to remove them.

    Pressure makes the steam engine run; pressure can also cause it to explode. I am doing what I can, little as it is, to maintain pressure from my position as a free American citizen – as long as that position lasts.

  11. For the NON-FOOLS AND NON-CRY BABIES, I’m sorry JoAnn:

    01/27/17 04:36 PM EST

    The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League is criticizing a White House statement in remembrance of International Holocaust Memorial Day because the statement does not specifically mention that millions of Nazi victims were Jewish.

    Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted on Friday that the statement was “puzzling and troubling” because it refers to “depravity and horror” inflicted on “innocent people” by the Nazis. The statement is likely intended to refer to Jewish people, who made up the vast majority of Holocaust victims. But Greenblatt took issue with the lack of an explicit mention.

    “@Whitehouse statement on #HolocaustMemorialDay, misses that it was six million Jews who perished, not just ‘innocent people’,” Greenblatt tweeted.

    The White House statement, in full, reads:

    “It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

    “Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

    “In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

    Greenblatt, who became CEO of the ADL in 2015, was an aide to former President Barack Obama. He noted on Twitter that previous presidents in both parties have mentioned the religion of Nazi victims. The ADL is a nongovernmental organization focused on fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry.

    Wow! I’m now relieved. The mighty ADL has come to the rescue. Maybe their partner the SPLC will join them. And then everything will be okay. Am I right?

    Show Comments

  12. Institutional memory is only good and useful when those in charge want to do what is moral and best for all concerned. Trump is not moral and certainly does not want what is best for all Americans. Like many others on this blog, I wonder how long before Congress takes him down and crowns Mike Pence the First Evangelical Pope of the Americas.

  13. Patrick Kennedy and other senior State Department officials did not just decide to walk out – they were fired, not “asked to resign.” Call a spade a spade.

  14. Theresa,

    You’re probably right. But as far as I can see the transition to FASCISM is probably going better than had been planned. Especially with the skyrocketing stock market [which will eventually come tumbling down like “Humpty Dumpty]. But by then, free speech will be much more curtailed.

    Mike Pence looks a lot better with his partner taking all the flack. I might be missing it, but I haven’t noticed any revolt in Congress.

    Just take a look at what Trump has achieved since the Marches on the 19th. This is probabLy one of the smoothest TAKEOVERS in history. Not any significant bloodshed [that I have noticed].

  15. Not to detract from this very unsettling topic, but I’d like to ask Sheila if she’s got anything on the grumblings I’m starting to see that ALEC and it’s ilk are aiming for a constitutional ammendment giving corporations quite literally superhuman legal status. Lest we not forget how close they are to having enough state governments to ratify an ammendment. The King and his court are itching to make us serfs

  16. Sheila, I read the article that AgingLGrl posted and would like to know your thoughts, if possible. It seems to be a factual article about radical Christians taking over our government and it points out that pence is their perfect pick to rule the country.

  17. To get back to Jared Kushner. Is he our new de-facto President?

    The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance into Harvard [Online back in November, 2016]:

    ProPublica editor Daniel Golden wrote a book a decade ago about how the rich buy their children access to elite colleges. One student he covered is now poised to become one of the most powerful figures in the country.

    This story was co-published with The Guardian.

    I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, “The Price of Admission.” I have never met or spoken with him, and it’s rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, I’m thankful.

    My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

    I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

    “There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”

    Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said in an email Thursday that “the allegation” that Charles Kushner’s gift to Harvard was related to Jared’s admission “is and always has been false.” His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, “are enormously generous and have donated over 100 million dollars to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes. Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honors.” (About 90 percent of Jared’s 2003 class at Harvard also graduated with honors.)

    My Kushner discoveries were an offshoot of my research for a chapter on Harvard donors. Somebody had slipped me a document I had long coveted: the membership list of Harvard’s Committee on University Resources. The university wooed more than 400 of its biggest givers and most promising prospects by putting them on this committee and inviting them to campus periodically to be wined, dined, and subjected to lectures by eminent professors.

    My idea was to figure out how many children of these corporate titans, oil barons, money managers, lawyers, high-tech consultants and old-money heirs had gone to Harvard. A disproportionate tally might suggest that the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers.

    I began working through the list, poring over “Who’s Who in America” and Harvard class reunion reports for family information. Charles and Seryl Kushner were both on the committee. I had never heard of them, but their joint presence struck me as a sign that Harvard’s fundraising machine held the couple in especially fond regard.

    The clips showed that Charles Kushner’s empire encompassed 25,000 New Jersey apartments, along with extensive office, industrial and retail space and undeveloped land. Unlike most of his fellow committee members, though, Kushner was not a Harvard man. He had graduated from New York University. This eliminated the sentimental tug of the alma mater as a reason for him to give to Harvard, leaving another likely explanation: his children.

    Sure enough, his sons Jared and Joshua had both enrolled there.

    Charles Kushner differed from his peers on the committee in another way; he had a criminal record. Five years after Jared entered Harvard, the elder Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax violations, illegal campaign donations, and retaliating against a witness. (As it happens, the prosecutor in the case was Chris Christie, recently ousted as the head of Trump’s transition team.) Charles Kushner had hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, who was cooperating with federal authorities. Kushner then had a videotape of the tryst sent to his sister. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

    I completed my analysis, which justified my hunch. Of the 400-plus tycoons on Harvard’s list — which included people who were childless or too young to have college-age offspring — more than half had sent at least one child to the university.

    I also decided that the Kushner-Harvard relationship deserved special attention. Although the university often heralded big gifts in press releases or a bulletin called — in a classic example of fundraising wit, “Re:sources” — a search of these outlets came up empty. Harvard didn’t seem eager to be publicly associated with Charles Kushner.

    While looking into Kushner’s taxes, though, federal authorities had subpoenaed records of his charitable giving. I learned that in 1998, when Jared was attending The Frisch School and starting to look at colleges, his father had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard, to be paid in annual installments of $250,000. Charles Kushner also visited Neil Rudenstine, then Harvard president, and discussed funding a scholarship program for low- and middle-income students.

    I phoned a Harvard official, with whom I was on friendly terms. First I asked whether the gift played any role in Jared’s admission. “You know we don’t comment on individual applicants,” he said. When I pressed further, he hung up. We haven’t spoken since.

    At Harvard, Jared Kushner majored in government. Now the 35-year-old is poised to become the power behind the presidency. What he plans to do, and in what direction he and his father-in-law will lead the country, are far more important than his high school grades.

    Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best work.
    Daniel Golden

  18. JM and Nancy,

    We have to guard against paranoia (although I do recognize the truth in the old saying that paranoids do have enemies). I’ve heard nothing about an ALEC effort to amend the Constitution, and find that highly unlikely; they are bleeding membership, on the defensive, and it is incredibly difficult to amend the Constitution. The radical Christians have been trying to make America a “Christian” nation (as they define that term) for a long time, and Pence is clearly one of them, but that doesn’t get them any closer to their goal. In fact, I would argue that Trump has been so dramatically worse than most of us expected–so obviously deranged–that it is difficult to predict what’s next.

  19. I agree that “institutional knowledge” is extremely important in any organization, and losing it can result in all kind of issues. It will definitely be the case with the losses at the State Dept.

    BUT, the know-it-all better than anyone else in charge wouldn’t have listened to those with the knowledge anyway. Probably wouldn’t even bothered asking them for their opinions. Knowing that is probably why they all left. Unfortunately, with his, seemingly worsening, narcissistic personality disorder, our relationships, or lack thereof, and dealings with other countries is going to be a huge issue and concern. But he doesn’t care who he insults or tries to retaliate against anyway. Everyone is inferior to him.

    Yep, as in every other area of government, we’re in deep you know what.

  20. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you. But, when all this mess comes “tumbling down,” I’m not going to blame Trump/Pence. I guess I will have to blame Jared Kushner. Let’s not tarnish the reputation of the RADICAL CHRISTIANS.

  21. Don the con promised just enough people power in order to get elected . They, having lived in democracy all of their lives, thought that he meant power for them. Of course his sociopathic mind always thought power for himself.

    “Institutional memory” is an interesting term that’s related to institutional culture. Every big organization has one and it becomes kind of a super personality that most people recognize as how things are done around here.

    I think that each of us could write an essay about America’s personality up to Jan 19, 2017 and then describe what we worry that personality may become after that day.

    Just as it took extraordinary effort (read lies) on his part (on the short term and the GOP’s on the longer term) to overcome America’s personality so will it take whatever follows them to reassert our traditional ways of doing things.

    So this isn’t unfortunately a temporary condition for us or the world. We have redefined us from the powerful seat of democracy to a world power broker.

    Don the con is delighted because he sees himself as the anointed one as he always has. He sees what floors us as the universe unfolding as it should at his feet.

    At this point, IMO, we need to raise such an extended ruckus that the world knows for sure that he’s not us. He is the aberration, we are unchanged.

    Can we break out of our entrenched comfort zone enough and long enough to reach out to the world as loudly as his lies?

    I think that it’s possible but it will take extraordinary effort on our part and incompetence on his part. Of course he (they) will go to extraordinary efforts to blame others for everything bad. We must stand united with the rest of the world.

  22. The resistance continues: Scientists in the United States are mobilizing to organize a March for Science. An event in the US capital is planned for March, with activities occurring in other countries. The group’s mission statement begins with “There are certain things that we accept as facts … The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action. The diversity of life arose by evolution”. Both president Trump and vice president Pence have expressed skepticism about humans’ role in global warming and the theory of evolution.

    Elizabeth Hadly, professor of biology, geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University, has spent more than 30 years studying the impacts of environmental change on animal biodiversity. She explained that “scientists have battled the political and ideological forces against concepts such as evolution and climate change for years. We have patiently articulated the physical and biological laws governing the universe, assembled the data, and presented it in the pages of journals, at public seminars, to the halls of Congress. What is occurring now against science and scientists in the US goes beyond ideology and political party. Now we find our discourse under attack.”

    My Institutional Memory recalls a day when the USA spurred on by the Soviet launch of Sputnik
    went on to be a world leader in Science. Today we have large segments of our population who deny we are polluting the earth, and believe in Creation Science.

  23. Pete,

    “Can we break out of our entrenched comfort zone enough and long enough to reach out to the world as loudly as his lies? I think that it’s possible but it will take extraordinary effort on our part and incompetence on his part. OF COURSE HE (THEY) WILL GO TO EXTRAORDINARY EFFORT TO BLAME OTHERS FOR EVERYTHING BAD.

    You couldn’t say it any better. My suggestion would be to first EXPOSE the use of minority fronts, especially Jewish ones. Ben Carson is minor, Jared Kushner is major. There’s been a continual “relay of Jewish frontmen” from Roy Cohn [Trump’s mentor] who was Congressman Joseph McCarth’s right-hand man starting in 1950; Robert Strauss who was George Bush’s secret left-hand man, starting as Finance Chairman of the National Democratic Party in 1970; Eric Cantor, leader of the Tea Party Republicans in 2001 and later Majority Whip; and now Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Special Envoy to the Middle East in 2016.

    They are principally used to neutralize IMPORTANT Jewish voices in the media like those with The New York Times. That’s one reason “The Times” had to apologize after their failed efforts in the past Presidential election.

  24. From the Penitentiary to the Insane Asylum[ My title]:

    Kushner’s felon father brought two fellow inmates into company
    Friday, January 27, 2017 08:02 AM
    The Associated Press

    (c) 2017, Bloomberg.

    It’s hard to find work right out of prison. But Avram Lebor and Richard Goettlich walked from their Alabama penitentiary into top jobs at the real estate company then run by Jared Kushner, now President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The two men, convicted in separate sprawling fraud schemes, were hired several years ago by his father, Charles Kushner, who had been locked up in the same federal prison with them.

    As 36-year-old Jared Kushner settles into a White House role that includes personnel decisions and Middle East peace, the most extensive organizational experience he has to draw from is his lifetime at the closely held family real estate company, where his father is once again deeply involved. It’s a business where, like Trump’s, family and loyalty loom large. Management at Kushner Cos. has been mercurial, its feuds bruising and its political influence considerable. Recent joint ventures and investments expanded by Jared could lead to opportunities for unseen influence. Given the company’s history, ethics lawyers say, such opportunities merit close watching.

    “It can’t hurt to be doing business with Jared Kushner’s family,” said Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization focused on election laws. “It’s a road to the administration. At the very least they’re going to have an inside track.”

    In theory, both Kushner and Trump have dealt with the risk of conflicts of interest. Trump is turning over control of his business to his sons. Kushner has gone further, selling his share in many family assets. His lawyer, Blake Roberts, noted that the sale follows federal law and has been approved by the Office of Government Ethics.

    Still, the purchasers are his brother and mother, and some ethicists say the potential for conflict remains; Kushner seems likely to know where the money is invested. His father, convicted in 2005 of witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions and tax evasion, remains central to the company.

    Charles, 62, built Kushner Cos. as a simple business: buying and refurbishing suburban garden apartments on the East Coast. Since 2007 his son has transformed it into a flashier, more complex entity, controlling $7.5 billion of assets, according to Real Capital Analytics. It got there by trading $1.8 billion worth of the apartments for office and retail properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn, a leap that’s brought in Chinese investors, a slate of equity partners and almost $4 billion of debt, much owed to international banks. Also of Jared’s invention: an expanded credit arm announced after the election that will invest $1 billion into the debt structures of other people’s deals over the next five years. The fund has few regulatory or public disclosure obligations.

    Charles completed his two-year prison sentence in 2006 for making illegal campaign contributions and hiring a prostitute to entrap his brother-in-law. Company officials say that while it has a president, Laurent Morali, Charles has been helping shape the company’s redevelopment plans, arranging deals and negotiating with officials.

    “I talk to Charlie a lot. He’s working harder than he’s worked in a long time,” said Alan Hammer, a lawyer who has known Kushner for more than 35 years, represents the company and served as its chairman while Kushner was behind bars.

    Working alongside him as the firm’s director of acquisitions is Lebor, 68, Kushner’s fellow inmate who joined the company in 2009. Lebor and Goettlich, 61, were both in the prison when Charles arrived in April 2005. Lebor was serving a seven-year sentence after he fraudulently promoted himself as a lender and mortgage broker and collected $9 million in advance fees while promising to obtain $2.5 billion in loans for dozens of projects that were never funded. Goettlich got 10 years after pleading guilty to securities fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in 1998. At his family’s firm, he’d defrauded thousands of investors in a Ponzi scheme involving office equipment leases. An initial order in 1999 to repay $271 million in fines and refunds was at the time the third-largest penalty ever imposed in a securities fraud case.

    Goettlich’s son started a four-and-a-half-year stint at Kushner Cos. in May 2008, first as an intern, later as an associate in its hotel subsidiary, according to his LinkedIn profile. Goettlich, whose sentence ended in December 2008, joined the firm in early 2011 and is a leasing consultant.

    Lebor was released from prison in August 2009 and joined Kushner Cos., which he frequently represents at events hosted by the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group.

    A Kushner spokesman said the company is proud to have hired Lebor and Goettlich, along with other ex-convicts, as part of its second-chance program. Charles is also a board member of Getting Out & Staying Out, which mentors young inmates at Rikers Island.

    Jared is joining a Republican White House, whereas Charles, the son of Holocaust survivors, built his business partly by becoming a big donor to Democrats. In 2000 he bundled $1 million in contributions for the Democratic National Committee, and the following year he became the largest fundraiser for Jim McGreevey’s campaign to become New Jersey governor. McGreevey named Kushner to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and later nominated him to become its chairman-a position rife with real estate business opportunities.

    Before he was approved as chairman, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, then led by Chris Christie, charged Kushner with disguising campaign donations as business expenses, tax evasion and hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law. He sent a videotape of their encounter to his own sister.

    His father’s imprisonment in 2005 thrust Jared into a principal role at the company at the age of 24, and strengthened his intense family loyalty. He frequently flew to Alabama for weekend visits and spoke out in the press to defend his father. When Jared completed his biggest deal in 2007, purchasing 666 Fifth Avenue, a Manhattan office tower, for a then-record $1.8 billion, his newly released father was at his side for the announcement. For years, Jared carried a wallet Charles had made for him in prison.

    Some describe Jared as like his father in ambition and drive, but softer-Charlie on decaf, in the words of a friend. As publisher of the New York Observer, Jared repeatedly ordered an editor to do a story critical of a real estate developer who had crossed him. The editor, Elizabeth Spiers, wrote in a blog post that she twice assigned reporters to the story, but when neither found evidence to back up Kushner’s accusations, he backed down.

    Under Jared, the company has sought to wield political influence in a more nuanced way than under his father. In Jersey City, where Kushner Cos. has invested in five major projects in recent years, both Jared and his father have a close relationship with Mayor Steve Fulop. Fulop has received glowing coverage in the New York Observer, and as the Kushners were developing Trump Tower in Jersey City in 2014, they hired one of Fulop’s closest political strategists to work as an expediter on the project.

    The Kushners and their partners in Jersey City, the KABR Group, also quietly became major financial backers of Progressive New Jersey Inc., a nonprofit that Fulop’s allies helped set up in 2014 to promote worker safety and other issues. Although the group does not disclose its donors, two people involved with the organization said that members of the Kushner-KABR partnership made a $100,000 donation. (Kushner company spokesman James Yolles declined to comment on the donation.) Last year, when the mayor was publicly mulling entering the New Jersey governor’s race, Progressive New Jersey made a $400,000 contribution to a pro-Fulop political action committee. After a public outcry, that donation was returned.

    Those moves came as the Fulop administration has been negotiating possible subsidies for the Kushner projects. Although Fulop has been critical of using taxpayer funds to underwrite developers, Jersey City has been in discussions with the Kushners and KABR to provide $10 million in redevelopment area bonds to help finance the project, according to documents filed with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

    Mayor Fulop’s office said he was unaware that the Kushners had employed his chief strategist to work on development projects in the city or donated to Progressive New Jersey Inc. Jennifer Morrilli, his press secretary, said Fulop had never received financial support from the Kushners. Any requests the Kushner companies make for tax abatements or bond subsidies will be decided strictly according to city policy, Morrilli said. KABR didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    Now that Trump and Kushner have taken office, the potential for conflicts has grown.

    In the weeks before the election, Kushner refinanced $370 million of debt on stores in Midtown Manhattan, with Deutsche Bank taking on $285 million, documents show. This mirrors a relationship with the president, whose companies owe more than $300 million to Deutsche Bank, his biggest lender. Unrelated to those loans, the Justice Department, which is now overseen by a Trump appointee, has been investigating Deutsche Bank.

    Days after Trump announced he was stepping down from his corporate functions, he met with Steve Roth, the head of Vornado Realty Trust, a company with deep financial ties to both the Trump and Kushner companies. Roth had been on an economic advisory council for Trump’s campaign. When the candidate raised funds for veterans, Roth contributed $50,000. And when Trump won the New York Republican primary, Roth was at the victory party.

    President Trump asked him to join a committee that will oversee the doling out of more than $100 billion in tax breaks to encourage $1 trillion in infrastructure spending-just the kind of public works spending that could bring vast benefits to real estate developers.

    Vornado has bailed both family firms out of tough situations. In 2007, when Trump was in an unhappy partnership involving two buildings, Vornado bought his Chinese partners out; today, Trump’s stake in the two buildings is his most valuable asset.

    Four years later, when Kushner’s investment in 666 Fifth Avenue was teetering near insolvency, Vornado salvaged the deal for him and now owns nearly half of the building’s office space. Jared Kushner has met with executives from state-controlled Chinese financial powerhouse Anbang Insurance Group Co. to discuss a possible redevelopment of the tower, the New York Times reported earlier this month.

    The CEO of Vornado at the time, Michael Fascitelli, donated the maximum to Trump’s campaign and now heads the investment committee of Cadre, a real estate investing startup co-founded by Jared and his brother, Joshua. Cadre plans to invest $1 billion from 2,000 undisclosed donors into real estate in 2017. An unidentified family office has provided $250 million to the firm to help it ensure deals. Spokesmen for Vornado and Cadre didn’t provide comment.

    Cadre’s financial ties mirror those of another of its investors: Thrive Capital, Josh Kushner’s venture firm, which had raised $1.5 billion from investors through July, to place into investments such as messaging app Slack, online-payments company Stripe, and Oscar, which sells insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Billionaire Peter Thiel, Trump’s most vocal supporter in Silicon Valley, was an early investor. Thrive, from which Jared is divesting, declined to comment.

    All of which leads ethics specialists to feel that the potential for conflicts is deep. Charles Kushner has already made at least one visit to the White House-he was in the front row at Jared’s swearing-in ceremony, flanked by his wife and Josh.

    “The perception is, if you’re interacting with his family, you’re also interacting with Jared, even if it’s indirectly,” said Andrew D. Herman, a lawyer who’s represented many members of Congress on ethics issues. “It will be impossible to know when a decision is made for policy reasons or because it benefits his family in some way.”

    Bloomberg’s Max Abelson and David Voreacos contributed.




  25. Sheila’s comment about “Christians” wanting to make this some sort of theocracy is important. Some things are happening that many non-churchgoers need to know. Robert Jones’ recent book, “The End of White Christian America” mentions four areas which have turned off or driven away people from the Christian church: complicit racism, failure to accept/integrate LGBT and more specifically the judgmentalism, the sacrificing spiritual integrity for a right wing political agenda and the presumption to speak for all people. In short, people have loved their cultural baggage more than they have loved Jesus. Trump’s appalling attitudes and Pence’s modeling of what a Christian should not be promises to fuel the dramatic rise in the “nones” and continuing drop in church membership. People will be repulsed. That will leave the group of reactionary authoritarians to fight it out with their conspiratorial delusional ways, isolated. Politicians who ally with their whoever votes them in will dump the “Christians”. Meanwhile, a significant group, such as Sojourners and web sites like ” Unfundamentalist Christians” are attracting thousands who want nothing to do with right wing authoritarianism. Should be very interesting.

  26. Here is an “Unsettling Omen” of a different nature. One of the Russian former members of KGB, suspected of helping Christopher Steele with the Trump/Russia dossier has been found dead, suspected murder. I asked recently for people to watch or any news of Christopher Steele, I am asking again. This was an AOL news item; they tend to lean far right which would be protective of Trump, probably up to and including any connection to Putin and/or Russians.

    Rachel Maddow reported recently of two former KGB members being murdered 2-4 years ago; one in London being stabbed with an umbrella which had a poison dart on the end. The second was murdered here; New York City I think, when he met with a Russian friend and his tea was poisoned. He died a horrible death from radiation poisoning. Christopher Steele disappeared with his family recently, reportedly to save their lives. This is not a Tom Clancy spy novel; this is reality and Trump is speaking with Putin today. We can be sure there will be no transparency regarding this call or any believable report on the conversation. We have not seen the truth on anything regarding the connection between Trump/Putin/Russia and we never will.

  27. JoAnn,
    Those ricin murders took place in the late 1970s. Russia was still the USSR I believe.

  28. Theresa; sorry I got the time frame wrong on the first two murders – the two that we know of till now.

    AgingLGrl; it is obvious that the mob is in the White House, the only question is, is it the Russian mob or the American mob?

  29. JoAnn,

    I think that there were many murders of dissidents and reporters in Putin’s Russia. The KBG is still at work, just under a new name. Scary people.

  30. It’s refreshing to see people responding almost spontaneously to Trump’s ridiculous orders and comments. Within 24 hours, several hundred have shown up at JFK airport in New York with signs welcoming immigrants and refugees. As word spread via the media, the crowd doubled in an hour, lining the multiple floors of adjacent parking garages.

    The Trump administration’s right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing, and legal immigrants and visa holders were already in the air when the order to stop them was communicated to ports of entry.

    Now we know why Trump ran so many businesses into the ground. He’s an incompetent manager who doesn’t check laws, rules, precedent, or facts before taking action that embarrasses us on the world stage.

  31. The President of Mexico cancelled the meeting with Trump due to his foolishness. The British Prime Minister wants the sanctions against Russia to remain contrary to Trump’s determination to remove them. The Canadian Prime Minister is welcoming the refugees turned away from America by Trump’s Executive Order signed last night. He has endangered diplomatic relations between the United States and three countries over the past 4-5 days.

    I’m fed up with people demanding impeachment which is meaningless; it will NOT remove him from office and it would take the next four years to process and act on impeaching this fool for every dangerous action he has taken over the past eight DAYS. Pence, Ryan, McConnell and the Republican Congress are NOT going to remove their chosen one from the presidency. We are screwed; we must, as others have asked and been doing, contact our elected officials directly and repeatedly with demands to control or remove him. We MUST vote them out of office.

  32. Regarding amending the constitution, it’s real. I apologize if someone has already posted this; I read a different, shorter piece by Robert Reich a couple of days ago, haven’t read this one closely. We just got home from a trip and I don’t have time to read all comments here today, sadly.

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