The Trumps and their extended family have not made many friends in the years since they left office, in the world of politics and the world of business. While Trump and his two sons, Don Jr. and Eric are the ones that are most often in the spotlight, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared, have also been making waves of their own on the global stage. 

Life After the White House

After Donald Trump left the White House, Kushner and Ivanka faded somewhat into the background of the national zeitgeist. They went back to New York, where Kushner started a private equity firm. 

Source: Wikimedia/North Charleston

This firm made headlines when it received a $2 billion investment, which was funded through the sovereign wealth fund controlled by Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia. This infusion of cash to Kushner’s company drew significant scrutiny both from Democrats and from citizens, though Kushner defended the business dealings. 

Working in the Trump Administration

During Trump’s time in office, Kushner worked on a wide range of issues and policies in the administration as a White House advisor. Some of the issues that he worked on included Middle East peace efforts, which is where he developed a relationship with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. 

Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of State

Kushner defended his alliance with the prince at a summit sponsored by Axios, both in terms of their business relationship as well as the political one. He dismissed the concern of conflicts of interest between the pair, given the sometimes contentious relationship between the United States and the Middle East. 

Facing Backlash in Serbia

Criticism has not stopped Jared Kushner from his development ambitions in the past, and it doesn’t seem like it will stop him any more in the future. This is important, given that Kushner and his group are facing significant backlash for a proposed real estate venture in Serbia. 

Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

The proposal from Kushner’s Affinity Group investment firm is aimed at building a high rise hotel and a ritzy apartment building on the side of the bombed out former Serbian army headquarters in Belgrade.  The plans have stoked fierce backlash from public officials and civilians, who have accused Kushner of cultural insensitivity over the project. 

A Petition Launched by Opposition Leaders

A local opposition group, the Kreni-Promeni, or “Make Changes” movement, launched a petition earlier this week against the new development. It garnered around 10,000 signatures in only a few hours, and had gathered more than 25,000 signatures as of Friday. 

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Serbian officials spoke with The Daily Beast, and described the project as inappropriate, for several reasons. Primarily, they cited its impact on “the cultural heritage” of Belgrade, a development that would cover up a significant part of Serbian history. 

Commentary by Opposition Leaders

Borko Stefanovic, a Serbian politician and opposition leader, spoke to The Daily Beast on the issue. “It’s one of the pearls of pre-war architecture. There is the emotional aspect: This site was bombed by NATO in 1999. Most Serbs believe this site should not be desecrated in any way.”

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The event to which Stefanovic is referring is an operation that was titled Operation Noble Anvil. It was an aerial bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, and lasted for a little over two months. The bombings continued until an agreement was reached that led to the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army from Kosovo. 

Significant Implications of the Deal

The cultural significance of the site cannot be overstated, but there are more important political implications regarding the Kushner development that opposition leaders are concerned about. 

Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Stefanovic and his center-left coalition are concerned that, by carrying out the deal with Kushner to develop the war memorial, the Serbian government might be seeking to curry favor with Kushner. They believe that the goal is ultimately to create an alliance with Donald Trump, Kushner’s father in law and the presumptive nominee for the Republican party for president. 

“No Transparency”

Stefanovic called out his own government in criticizing the deal, as well. “There is absolutely no transparency, the government is not willing to present to the public any aspect of this possible deal. Mr. Vucic and his regime are counting desperately that Mr. Trump will win in the United States.”

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

Savo Manojlovic, the leader of the “Make Changes” opposition movement, also told The Daily Beast that he believes the deal is part of Serbian President Aleksandar Vicic’s efforts to warm up to Trump ahead of the 2024 election. This is after Trump was interested in developing the same site in 2013, though the idea was ultimately never realized.

Creating Problems for Jared

All is not well with the potential development, though, even ignoring the political opposition within Serbia itself. The investment could create some problems for Kushner, says Robert Weissman. 

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Weissman is the president of Public Citizen, which has spent years tracking potential conflicts of interest tied to Donald Trump. Many believe that Kushner’s investment is a thinly veiled attempt for the Serbian government to gain advantage over Donald Trump, should he be elected to the Oval Office again this fall. 

Commentary on the Deal From Americans

He aired his concerns in a statement. “What [Kushner] should be thinking about is: I was in the White House, my father-in-law is running for president, I shouldn’t enter into deals that may give the appearance…of [a foreign government] trying to gain advantage with the potential next president of the United States.”

Source: Wikimedia/Shaleah Craighead

Weissman is not the only person who has expressed concern regarding the potential deal. Some members of Congress, including Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) have called for Congress to investigate the alleged “influence-peddling” abroad. 

A Hush Hush Deal

As far as the foreign government, Vucic and his advisors have kept much of the deal hush hush, according to Stefanovic. He said that he and his colleagues received a “memorandum of understanding” about the deal but nothing else. 

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The party has raised the issue in parliament, but was evidently shut down by Vucic and his allies, according to Stefanovic. “Their response in the parliament when we started to speak on this was fierce. They attacked us personally – it was on the verge of physical violence,” he said. 

Political Violence is Common

This is not the first time that it’s believed that violence has been threatened against Stefanovic. Opposition officials have previously accused Vucic of being behind a violent attack against the leader of the party in 2018. 

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After the attack, where hooded men attacked Stefanovic with brass knuckles and knocked him unconscious, protestors flooded the streets of Belgrade to demand the end of political violence in Serbia.

Looking for Further Transparency

Stefanovic and his coalition have reached out to Kushner’s team in the days since the potential deal was announced, requesting that they publicly release the details of the project. This is in an effort to achieve greater transparency on the project, though that’s unlikely to change the staunch opposition to the development. 

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

Serbian law requires that the army headquarters site only sustain construction for the purpose of returning it to its original structure and purpose. Serbians believe that the proposed construction by the Kushner group not only doesn’t meet this basic requirement, but is also insulting to Serbian history. 

Developments in Progress

There are some Serbians who believe that the only acceptable appropriation of the space currently under proposal would be for a war memorial or a museum documenting the 1999 NATO attack, and some potential details of the Kushner project have suggested that may be under consideration.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

Whether the Serbian public and opposition government can get on board with the development is irrelevant to the potential political issues at home, though. Kushner needs to tread carefully on this issue, both for himself and for former President Trump, especially ahead of the 2024 election.