On March 13, President Donald Trump promised Americans they would soon be able to access a new website that would ask them about their symptoms and direct them to nearby coronavirus testing sites. He said Google was helping.
That wasn’t true. But in the following days, Oscar Health—a health-insurance company closely connected to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—developed a government website with the features the president had described. A team of Oscar engineers, project managers, and executives spent about five days building a stand-alone website at the government’s request, an Oscar spokesperson told The Atlantic. The company even dispatched two employees from New York to meet in person with federal officials in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said. Then the website was suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.
The site would not have helped many Americans even if it had launched. Today, more than two weeks after the president promised a national network of drive-through test sites, only a handful of such sites have opened, and fewer than 1 million Americans have been tested.
The full extent of Oscar’s work on the project has not been previously reported. The partnership between the administration and the firm suggests that Kushner may have mingled his family’s business interests with his political interests and his role in the administration’s coronavirus response. Kushner’s younger brother Joshua is a co-founder and major investor in Oscar, and Jared Kushner partially owned or controlled Oscar before he joined the White House. The company’s work on the coronavirus website could violate federal ethics laws, several experts said.
March 30, 2020
New York Times
The federal government’s planned $2 trillion economic rescue package includes financial aid for individuals and industries that are struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
It also includes a potential bonanza for America’s richest real estate investors.
Senate Republicans inserted an easy-to-overlook provision on page 203 of the 880-page bill that would permit wealthy investors to use losses generated by real estate to minimize their taxes on profits from things like investments in the stock market. The estimated cost of the change over 10 years is $170 billion.
Under the existing tax code, when real estate investors generate losses from gradually writing down the value of their properties, a process known as depreciation, they can use some of those losses to offset other taxes. The result is that people can enjoy big tax breaks stemming from only-on-paper losses, even if they enjoy big cash profits in the real world.
March 26, 2020
Hours after the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, President Donald Trump on Wednesday night announced a 30-day travel ban on most of Europe. But among the countries he excluded were two where he has hotels and golf courses that have been struggling financially: the UK and Ireland.
Trump has two properties in the UK — Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Scotland — as well as another in Doonbeg, Ireland.
The new travel restrictions, announced by Trump in a televised Oval Office address, temporarily bar foreign nationals starting Friday from traveling to the US from 26 European countries that are part of what is known as the Schengen Area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
March 12, 2020
New York Times
President Trump’s campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party’s voter data and fund-raising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure.
Working under the aegis of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with the cooperation of Trump appointees at the Republican National Committee, the operatives have consolidated power — and made money — in a way not possible in an earlier, more transparent analog era. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and a range of other Republican clients. […]
The process has not been exactly frictionless, shot through with accusations of empire-building and profiteering by the campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and his allies. Mr. Parscale’s flagship firm, Parscale Strategy, has billed nearly $35 million to the Trump campaign, the R.N.C. and related entities since 2017 — the vast bulk of it, he says, passed along to advertising and digital firms. […]
According to two people with knowledge of the matter, Parscale Strategy has also been used to make payments out of public view to Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., who have been surrogates on the stump and also taken on broader advisory roles. Their presence makes for an odd dynamic between a campaign manager and a candidate’s family.
During a campaign appearance last summer in Orlando, Ms. Guilfoyle confronted Mr. Parscale: Why were her checks always late? Two people who witnessed the encounter said a contrite Mr. Parscale promised that the problem would be sorted out promptly by his wife, Candice Parscale, who handles the books on many of his ventures. […]
Republicans had fund-raising tools, but by coalescing around a single vendor like ActBlue, candidates could raise money jointly and more easily share data on contributors. There were several contenders. But to Mr. Kushner and Mr. Parscale, who by then was the 2020 campaign manager, only one vendor was acceptable, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations: a company called Revv which had already been processing payments for the campaign. […]
With or without a stake in WinRed, key aides have positioned themselves at the center of a formidable political machine. Ms. Walsh-Shields’s consulting firm receives a $25,000-a-month R.N.C. retainer and 1 to 5 percent of money it raises for the party’s 2020 convention. Mr. Shields’s firm, Convergence Media, represents clients ranging from the National Republican Congressional Committee to Representative Devin Nunes of California, one of the president’s staunchest defenders against impeachment.
But it is Mr. Parscale who has most often been the focus of Mr. Trump’s complaints that those around him are making too much money from his name and brand. Mr. Parscale has not always discouraged suspicions. A few weeks before the 2016 election, the campaign staff gathered at the Whiskey Trader, a watering hole near Trump Tower, to play beer pong and brace for near-certain defeat. In walked Mr. Parscale, returning from dinner with a new campaign hire.
“I’m making so much money!” Mr. Parscale declared, inserting an expletive, according to two people who were present. […]
Others in his circle have made purchases of their own. Mr. Lansing bought a $1.7 million home in Washington last year, while Ms. Walsh-Shields and Mr. Shields bought a $2 million beach house in the Florida panhandle. Asked about the house, Ms. Walsh-Shields referred a reporter to her mother, who said the down payment and mortgage payments had come mostly from her. Mr. Shields had also recently sold the house he owned before their marriage. […]
A company called Excelsior Strategies, run by employees at Mr. Shields’s firm, Convergence, was contracted to rent Mr. Trump’s crown jewel, his list of some 20 million donors; Mr. Shields said that only the campaign profited from the arrangement. And Opn Sesame, a start-up run by Gary Coby, a Parscale protégé, is being paid $200,000 to $300,000 a month through the R.N.C., according to campaign filings. […]
To allay Mr. Trump’s concerns, tens of millions of dollars worth of campaign advertising that once ran through Parscale Strategy has been redirected to a new company, American Made Media, which is run by a Parscale lieutenant. There are no public records detailing the company’s financial structure; Mr. Parscale and other advisers said they did not profit from it. Mr. Parscale has declined to provide detailed accounting of his network of interlocking businesses, and has told associates he follows Mr. Trump’s directive, relayed through Ms. McDaniel, that he make no more than $700,000 or $800,000 for his campaign work.
March 9, 2020