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White House spokesman Sean Spicer said presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner played no role in his family firm's decision to recruit Chinese investors with presentations on an "investor visa" program that name-checked both him and President Trump.
"Jared has done everything to comply with the ethics rules ... and that had nothing to do with him per se," Spicer said at Monday's press briefing.
"He wasn't involved."
Critics have blasted the Kushner Companies' sales pitches in China, saying they are a new example of how the Trump administration is using its position to boost its business interests.
Kushner's sister, Nicole Meyer, appeared at two investor presentations in China over the weekend, encouraging wealthy guests to sink money into a New Jersey real estate project through the controversial EB-5 visa program, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported.
The so-called "golden visa" program gives foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. development projects a faster track to pursue green cards for themselves and their families. President Trump signed a spending bill extending the program last week.
Journalists who attended a sales pitch in Beijing on Saturday — before they were ejected by the organizers — said that Meyer mentioned her brother during the presentation, which included a photo of President Trump identifying him as a key-decision maker on the fate of the EB-5 program.
Some event attendees told the newspapers that the Kushner firm's connection to the White House was a selling point.
"The Trump relationship is an extra point for me," Bi Ting told the Times after a presentation in Shanghai on Sunday.
Kushner's personal attorney, Blake Roberts of the WilmerHale law firm, said in a statement that Kushner has "no involvement" in the operation of the Kushner Companies.
Kushner, who is married to First Daughter Ivanka Trump, has also "divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he, his wife, and his children are not beneficiaries of, a mechanism suggested by the Office of Government Ethics," Roberts said.
"As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa program."