Kushners’ sales hook: visas

Jared Kushner -- Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser -- says he has stepped away from running his family’s real estate business.

But his tie to Kushner Cos. was part of the pitch by his sister, Nicole Meyer, to affluent audiences in Beijing and Shanghai over the weekend, according to reports by The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press.

The Kushners are seeking Chinese investment for a luxury apartment development in Jersey City -- a project that “means a lot to me and my entire family,” Meyer said.

But wait, there’s more: green cards. A brochure tagline read: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

Both the Trump and Kushner family businesses have used the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program to raise capital from foreigners. The Chinese attendees were advised to invest soon in case rules for “golden visas” change.

Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, called the presentations “incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate” for implying “that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa.”

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Though the EB-5 program is decried by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, Trump himself has not taken a position on whether it should be curbed.

By early Monday the Kushner family saw fit to issue a statement saying the name drop was not "an attempt to lure investors." 

The take-away: For the win

Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP lawmakers on Thursday held a sort of Potemkin signing ceremony with nothing to sign after the House passed the American Health Care Act. What emerges from the Senate may be quite different.

But Trump & Co. had clear incentive to push through even a half-baked bill to be rewritten later, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison. It may build momentum for real results and combat the impression of weakness born of having to pull an earlier version of the bill in March because it was going to lose.

New start or start over?

Ryan called the House blueprint for replacing Obamacare a “rescue mission,” joining with senior Trump administration officials on the Sunday morning shows to rebut criticism that the bill wouldn’t adequately cover the most vulnerable Americans, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo and Scott Eidler.

But the Senate will be “starting from scratch” on a new measure, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Obamacare should be improved through a bipartisan process, not repealed.

There was no nod to bipartisanship in Trump’s tweet: “Republican Senators will not let the American people down!”

Newsday’s Yancey Roy examines in detail the key points and flashpoints of the House bill, including its impact on pre-existing conditions, out-of-pocket cost caps and New York’s Medicaid program.

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Immortal words

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) was accused at a town-hall meeting of “mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying.” You’ll likely be seeing clips of his response in Democratic ads through the 2018 elections.

“Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,” Labrador said. (Video here.)

What he meant to say, according to Labrador’s subsequent Facebook post, is that “all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that.”

So what about life-threatening illnesses that are not emergency-room cases -- cancer, for instance? Labrador’s post didn’t address that.

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More Flynn revelations?

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who warned the Trump White House about Michael Flynn, is set to testify at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing Monday about Russia’s attempts to interfere with the last election.

She is expected to speak about what she knew of conversations between Flynn, who was fired in February as Trump’s national security adviser, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that Yates “apparently has some information as to who knew what when that she is willing to share.”

The Associated Press reported that in November, a Trump transition official asked the Obama White House for a classified CIA profile on Kislyak, concerned that he didn’t understand who he would be dealing with.

Early Monday, Trump tweeted what sounded like instructions to GOP lawmakers: "Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council." (Trump apparently meant to write "counsel.")

Undoubtedly she will be asked, since it supplies a counter-narrative to Trump's Flynn fiasco.

Follow the rubles

There are a lot of reasons for curiosity about Trump’s still-hidden tax returns. How much has he really paid in taxes? How would he fare under his proposed tax law changes? Would they shed light on his foreign investors?

On that last point, one more reason to wonder comes from golf writer James Dodson, talking to Boston’s WBUR Radio about hanging with Trump and his son Eric at a Trump course in North Carolina three years ago.

Dodson asked how the Trumps raised the capital for golf projects, and says Eric told him:

‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’

Speaking of Russia, Trump took to Twitter to complain again -- something about Democrats and news media. 

What else is happening:

  • A list of nominees for vacant federal judgeships is due from the White House on Monday, and Trump is expected to pick from the prospects his team considered for the Supreme Court.
  • Trump dropped big hints about rooting for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in France’s president election. After she lost in a landslide Sunday, Trump tweeted congratulations to the winner, centrist Emmanuel Macron, on his “big win.”
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) condemned Trump’s proposal to gut funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, calling the plan “destructive” in a time of widespread opioid abuse, including on Long Island, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.
  • Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) aired their criticisms of the House GOP health bill at separate Sunday news conferences, Newsday’s Figueroa writes.
  • Local officials in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump has homes and resorts, have a history of squabbles with him, but they have tried to be more accommodating since he became president, The New York Times reports.
  • Trump said when signing his executive order on religious liberty that “people were forbidden from giving or receiving religious items at a military hospital ... when they wanted those religious items.” Pentagon officials told CNN there was no such policy — only unsolicited items and proselytizing is barred.
  • A special election in Georgia, viewed by both sides as a proxy fight about Trump, will be the most expensive House race in U.S. history, Politico reports. Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million in TV ads.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included an incorrect name for the American Health Care Act.