Jared Kushner goes rogue in Saudi Arabia, prompting national security concerns
Chris Riotta. The Independent•March 7, 2019
Jared Kushner has gone rogue.
Donald Trump’s senior White House adviser once again abandoned government normalities during an official state trip to Saudi Arabia, reportedly discussing US-Saudi cooperation with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a meeting that lacked representation from the US Embassy in Riyadh.
The 38-year-old adviser also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US’ economic investment in the Middle East with Saudi royalty, including King Salman, according to a White House readout from the trip that was released just as the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen began his explosive public testimony on Capitol Hill last week.
Mr Kushner’s quiet undertaking of such high-profile meetings has raised national security concerns from military and intelligence officials, who said the president’s son-in-law was “undermining US authority” in the region.
Naveed Jamali — a former US Defence Department intelligence officer and double agent — told The Independent the Trump administration has frequently “blurred the lines of communication” between government agencies by sending Mr Kushner to meet with top international officials.
“We know there is a flawed system by the fact that Jared Kushner has a security clearance,” Mr Jamali — who has launched a bid for political office — said on Thursday, noting the 38-year-old adviser’s omission of Russian contacts from his initial clearance application and foreign business assets that would typically bar an official from receiving a clearance.
Mr Jamali added, “Who speaks for the government, the institutions or the family of the president?”
Multiple sources from the US embassy in Riyadh have said they were not read into the details of Mr Kushner’s Saudi Arabia visit, and have yet to receive any sort of briefing on the White House official’s meetings with Saudi leadership.
Mr Kushner was also reportedly provided security during his visit by Saudi officials — a component of a state trip typically handled by the US embassy in the region. Embassy staff also usually sits in on high-level meetings, and can include military personnel, cultural attaches and officials from across government agencies.
Those reports, first published in the Daily Beast nearly a week after Mr Kushner’s trip, were refuted by a senior administration official.
“This reporting is not true and the sources are misinformed,” that official said.
During his meetings with the Saudi crown prince, Mr Kushner seemingly failed to mention the high-profile killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and US resident who disappeared after entering a Saudi consulate last year in Istanbul. The international intelligence community and Turkish officials have claimed the crown prince was involved in the alleged murder of Mr Khashoggi, who was often critical in his reporting of the Saudi government.
Mark Hertling, a former US Army officer, lambasted the White House administration in a tweet for reportedly failing to include “critical subject matters experts” in Mr Kushner’s meetings with Saudi royalty.
Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, also asked why Mr Kushner was “having secret meetings with the Saudi government” while keeping US officials “in the dark about the substance of the meetings”.
“Are conflicts of interest at play here?” he wrote on Twitter.
Mr Kushner, long considered a security risk embedded in the West Wing by career intelligence officials, was reported to have conducted informal conversations on the chat app WhatsApp with the Saudi crown prince, who he has developed a relationship with since Mr Trump’s 2016 election.
The New York Times reported Mr Kushner was providing the prince with advice on how to weather the controversies surrounding the slaying of Mr Khashoggi.
House Democrats have launched an investigation into the White House’s security clearance processes under Mr Trump, demanding a trove of documents related to the matter and other investigatory concerns from Mr Kushner and 80 contacts and entities close to the president.
“[Kushner] is somehow who is much more amenable to personal offers like financial gain,” he added. “He doesn’t seem to have the strongest allegiance to the US … that’s concerning.”