Baltimore Did Have a Rodent Problem, Like Donald Trump Said — in Jared Kushner-Owned Apartments: Report
- July 30, 2019
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President Donald Trump over the weekend unleashed a blistering rant about a “rat and rodent infested” Baltimore congressional district sliding into ruin, laying much of the blame at the feet of Rep. Elijah Cummings, one of Trump’s fiercest critics.
Two years ago, however, a lengthy investigation found that apartment complexes in the city owned by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had mice problems and other issues, according to residents.
“It is certainly ironic that the president’s own son-in-law was complicit in contributing to some of the neglect that the president purports to be so concerned about,” Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. told the Washington Post.
Asked for comment about the previous reports on problems with Kushner properties, a company spokesperson told PEOPLE in a brief statement: “Kushner Companies is proud to own thousands of apartments in the Baltimore area. Substantial amounts are constantly reinvested in the properties to maintain a high quality residential experience for our tenants.”
A White House spokesman for Kushner did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump criticized Cummings on Twitter over several days, beginning Saturday, after Cummings assailed how border officials were treating migrants coming from Mexico. Trump contended that the Democrat’s district, which includes much of Baltimore, was “considered the worst run and most dangerous” in the U.S. and that “no human being would want to live there.”
“Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place,” Trump tweeted.
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In a later tweet, the president decried the crime rate in Baltimore as the fault of Cummings, a longtime congressman who does not run the city.
Trump’s comments were soon echoed by other conservatives and denounced by Baltimore officials and leading Democrats, and he was met with mild disapproval from some Republicans, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
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“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily,” Cummings wrote on Twitter. “Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
As noted by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and others, Cummings’ district “has above-average college education rates and home prices … [and] is the 2nd-wealthiest majority-black district in the country.”
Many critics pointed to the coded language Trump used against a black congressman only weeks after he used a well-worn racist trope in telling four female progressive lawmakers of color to “go back” to their countries of origin — though all four are Americans.
The reporting on Kushner-owned buildings from 2017, by The New York Times and ProPublica, resurfaced this week in the wake of Trump’s tweets about Baltimore.
Kushner, 38, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, was CEO of Kushner Companies from 2008 to 2017 before he stepped down to join the White House and oversee a broad policy portfolio, including peace negotiations in the Middle East and criminal justice reform.
He still retains his ownership in Kushner Cos., however.
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The company, which is based in New York, owns nearly 9,000 rental units at 17 complexes in Maryland, most of them in Baltimore County, the Baltimore Sun reported in February.
Still, the buildings have faced scrutiny in recent years, with the Times and ProPublica’s extensive report bringing to light residents’ complaints of poorly maintained apartments.
One resident told the outlet she found a mouse in her 12-year-old daughter’s bed and that the rodents’ droppings aggravated her toddler’s asthma.
Other complaints from the 2017 reporting included a ceiling leak that led to a mold problem, a window shot out by a BB gun that took weeks to repair and a loose plastic shutter that fell and hit a resident in the head.
More, still, included a maggot infestation in a unit that also saw raw sewage leaking from a kitchen sink.
The company’s chief financial officer told the outlet at the time that Kushner Cos. had spent $10 million on various upgrades, but that because of the age of the properties issues still arose.
Months after the report was first published two years ago, officials in Baltimore said Kushner Cos. had received more than 200 code violations in Baltimore County apartments over the span of a year.
The company eventually made all but nine of the necessary repairs after officials threatened fines and the withholding of rent.
“We expect all landlords to comply with the code requirements that protect the health and safety of their tenants, even if the landlord’s father-in-law is President of the United States,” then-Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
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After a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman told the Sun in 2017 that the company was “in compliance with all state and local laws,” Kamenetz fired back.
“It is a stretch of truth to assert they are in compliance with all laws when more than 200 code violations were observed by our inspectors in just the past 10 months,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kushner Cos. has also come under fire for allegedly charging residents excessive fees and threatening eviction, prompting multiple lawsuits over the past two years.
A Sun investigation in 2017 found that the company’s controversial tactics had ultimately awarded them $5.4 million in judgments against tenants who owed an average of $4,400.
At the time, officials with the firm told the Sun the threat of arrest was only used as a last resort and that it followed industry standards and state law, though the paper reported that the 105 civil arrests of former tenants was more than any other landlord in the state over that time.