Intercept: Saudi crown prince bragged about Kushner relationship

Jared Kushner, tasked by his boss and father-in-law, President Donald Trump, with mediating Middle East peace early i...

Posted: Mar 23, 2018 5:38 AM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 5:38 AM

Jared Kushner, tasked by his boss and father-in-law, President Donald Trump, with mediating Middle East peace early in the administration, has so far staked a bulk of those efforts on the ascendant Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

And according to a new report, the Saudi prince -- known casually by his initials, MBS -- took advantage of that power.

When Kushner, Trump's senior aide, made an unannounced trip to Riyadh last year, the Intercept -- citing three sources -- reported Wednesday, MBS told confidants after the meeting that Kushner had discussed Saudi leaders who are disloyal to the crown prince.

One person "who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers" told the Intercept that MBS bragged to United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was "in his pocket."

The Intercept also reported that Kushner's information on Saudi royals not loyal to MBS was contained in the President's Daily Brief, a document presented to the President every morning. Kushner lost his access to the document earlier this year when new security clearance rules were instituted.

Eager to consolidate power and rein in the sprawling orbit of the Saudi royal family and aristocratic class, Prince bin Salman listened intently and a week later cracked down on corruption in the country by imprisoning more than 200 members of the country's ruling class inside the confines of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, charging each with corruption.

"What we did in Saudi Arabia was extremely necessary," the Saudi crown prince told CBS in his first interview with a Western outlet. "All actions taken were in accordance with existing and published laws."

A spokesman for Kushner declined to comment on the allegation. But a spokesman for Kushner's lawyer -- Peter Mirijanian -- slammed the report.

"Some questions by the media are so obviously false and ridiculous that they merit no response. This is one," he said.

The report comes a month after The Washington Post reported that officials from at least four countries -- Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates -- have discussed ways they could use Kushner's intricate business arrangements, lack of experience and financial woes to manipulate the senior White House aide.

Mirijanian called the story nothing more than "unnamed sources peddling secondhand hearsay with rank speculation."

Kushner and MBS have fostered a close relationship for months, White House officials told CNN, and the top White House aide played a key role when the Saudi prince visited the White House this week.

Correctly viewing MBS as ascendant in the Muslim nation, Kushner worked for months earlier in the administration to build close ties with him. And when the prince's 82-year-old father, King Salman, handed over some power earlier this year, the two grew closer.

Kushner, in an effort to deepen that bond, took an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia in October 2017 where he met directly with the crown prince.

The two also met on Tuesday night at Kushner's home, the Saudi Embassy said Wednesday.

Joined by top White House negotiator Jason Greenblatt, the embassy said "discussion focused on the shared interests of both countries for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how best to achieve that."

MBS is in the middle of a goodwill tour across the United States. After visiting the White House and meeting with congressional leaders, he is slated to travel to Boston, New York, San Francisco and other American cities to meet with top representatives from the technology, business and education communities in the United States. The trip is part of MBS' campaign to sell the Western world on his view of his country's future.

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