President Donald Trump enjoys many perks as the commander-in-chief, and so does his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior White House adviser.
What they may not want us to talk about much, however, is how businesses associated with them may also be getting that extra boost thanks to their positions.
According to The Associated Press, Vornado Realty Trust, a company that does business with both Kushner's family and Trump, is one of the finalists for a $1.7 billion contract to erect the FBI's new headquarters. If the firm wins the bid, then it would be responsible for constructing a replacement for the building currently under use as the headquarters in Washington, D.C., the famous J. Edgar Hoover building.
But Vornado's ties to the White House go beyond former business deals.
Currently, the firm's CEO is Steven Roth, who has been advising the president on infrastructure plans. He's also involved with Kushner's White House Office of American Innovation. That alone should force the businessman to think twice before trying to get business contracts from the government.
Still, Trump's personal ties to the firm are concerning, and since he's declined divesting from his business, some in Washington are now questioning whether awarding a firm so close to the president and his son-in-law with a bureau contract doesn't imply that the president is crossing an ethical line.
According to Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia), Trump's business ties with particular companies “shifts the ethical burden” to them, forcing them to ponder whether they should take on gigs backed by taxpayer money.
“We’re in a position where once again he shrugged off his responsibilities and sloughed it off to someone else,” Connolly told reporters.
As a representative of a district where the building would take place, Connolly said he believes that Vornado's ties with Trump create a conflict of interest, and he is urging the company to drop out of the bidding process, especially now that the firm is one of the finalists. But he's not the only one who's shown concern.
Professor of government procurement law at George Washington University Steven Schooner says that the relationship between the firm and the White House is troubling for the president. “This would absolutely pose an apparent, and, potentially, an actual conflict of interest,” he wrote in an email to the AP. “I cannot imagine any modern-era precedent for the president (and his [adviser] and son-in-law) not recognizing that this is a problem and shutting this down before it gets any worse.”
As the White House has yet to comment on this story, it's important to point out that whether Trump officially divests from his business, he still has friends in high places that would eventually try to use their influence with the president in some way or another.
It's not enough to have him officially let go of his ownership of the Trump organization — companies with any ties to the commander-in-chief should also bear in mind they'll be under heavy scrutiny for seeking contracts backed by taxpayer money while their buddy occupies the White House.