Jared Kushner’s money from Saudi Arabia comes into sharper focus
Feb. 13, 2023, 10:49 AM ESTBy Steve Benen 5-6 minutes 2/13/2023
Donald Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East, shaped in part by son-in-law Jared Kushner, was unsubtle in its support for Saudi Arabia.
As Rachel explained on the show nearly a year ago, Trump’s first foreign trip as president was to Riyadh. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imprisoned other members of the royal family, Trump announced his support for the move. When the Saudis imposed a blockade on U.S. allies in Qatar, Trump endorsed this, too. When the U.S. had evidence of bin Salman approving the operation that killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump boasted that he came to the crown prince’s rescue and shielded him from consequences.
Kushner was responsible, at least in part, for helping shape the administration’s policy, making multiple trips to Saudi Arabia during his father-in-law’s term.
It was against this backdrop that The Washington Post reported on what happened after Trump and Kushner left the White House, as they faced “unprecedented business challenges.”
The day after leaving the White House, Kushner created a company that he transformed months later into a private equity firm with $2 billion from a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kushner’s firm structured those funds in such a way that it did not have to disclose the source, according to previously unreported details of Securities and Exchange Commission forms reviewed by The Washington Post. His business used a commonly employed strategy that allows many equity firms to avoid transparency about funding sources, experts said.
This new reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, dovetails nicely with a related New York Times report from last year, which found that those responsible for helping oversee the Saudi sovereign wealth fund were, to put it mildly, highly skeptical about giving Kushner’s new firm a $2 billion investment. Those concerns were understandable: The fund’s advisers rightly noted that Trump’s son-in-law had no relevant experience, and the firm’s operations were deemed “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”
Kushner got the money anyway.
A separate Times report added that as his father-in-law’s term wound down in late 2020 and early 2021, Kushner didn’t just prepare for life after a powerful White House role, he also made a series of additional trips to the Middle East, meeting with representatives of countries his newly formed private equity firm would soon approach for substantial financial investments — raising unavoidable questions about the degree to which Kushner leveraged his White House role to advance his business interests.
What’s more, as the Post’s report explained, in the months that followed, Trump’s golf courses began hosting tournaments for a Saudi fund-backed venture, and the Trump Organization “secured an agreement with a Saudi real estate company that plans to build a Trump hotel as part of a $4 billion golf resort in Oman.”
The article added that plenty of insiders “have concerns that Trump and Kushner used their offices to set themselves up to profit from their relationship with the Saudis after the administration ended.”
These questions are hardly outlandish. In fact, they seem painfully obvious, especially given House Republicans’ ostensible interest in foreign influence peddling and foreign investments in presidential family members.
Indeed, for all of the GOP’s obsessive interest in Hunter Biden, he has never worked at any level in any presidential administration; he has never steered his father’s foreign policies toward any country; and his role in U.S. foreign policy was, is, and has been literally nonexistent.
Kushner, on the other hand, was Trump’s right-hand man in the White House, taking a special interest in U.S. policy in the Middle East ahead of the $2 billion his fledgling firm received from a Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
So, clearly this is the sort of controversy that warrants some attention from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, right? Wrong.
“Look, we’re investigating Joe Biden,” the Kentucky Republican told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos yesterday. Comer added in the on-air interview, “The difference between Jared Kushner and Hunter Biden is that Jared Kushner actually sat down and was interviewed. He was interviewed by investigators. So he’s already been investigated.”
The GOP congressman was apparently referring to the fact that Kushner spoke with Jan. 6 investigators, not officials interested in Kushner’s Saudi deals. The idea that Trump’s son-in-law has “already been investigated” over his dealings with Riyadh is plainly false.
Comer apparently didn’t want to come right out and say, “Republicans prefer to ignore evidence of corruption because it implicates our political allies,” but that was effectively the message.
This post is a revised version of our related earlier coverage.
Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”