Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.
Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.
The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.
Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.
It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.
That loan was made in the spring of 2017, shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the White House with Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat, according to people briefed on the meeting. The two men talked about financial and trade policy and did not discuss Mr. Kushner’s family business, one person said.
There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say government ethics experts.
“This is exactly why senior government officials, for as long back as I have any experience, don’t maintain any active outside business interests,” said Don Fox, the former acting director of the Office of Government Ethics during the Obama administration and, before that, a lawyer for the Air Force and Navy during Republican and Democratic administrations. “The appearance of conflicts of interest is simply too great.”
The White House referred questions to Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who did not dispute that the meetings between Mr. Kushner and the executives took place.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Mr. Lowell, said in a statement that Mr. Kushner “has met with hundreds of business people.” He said that Mr. Kushner “has taken no part of any business, loans or projects with or for” Kushner Companies since joining the White House and that he has followed ethics advice.
Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said Mr. Kushner’s White House role had not affected the company’s relationships with financial institutions. “Stories like these attempt to make insinuating connections that do not exist to disparage the financial institutions and companies involved,” she said.
Apollo, the private equity firm, and Citigroup made large loans last year to the family real estate business of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser.