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Jared Kushner’s Scandalous Saudi $2 Billion

His corruption deserves more attention.
April 26, 2022
Jared Kushner’s Scandalous Saudi $2 Billion
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner stands among Saudi officials as President Donald Trump talks with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

[On the April 22, 2022 episode of The Bulwark’s “Beg to Differ” podcast, guest Nicholas Grossman discussed Jared Kushner’s conflicts of interest and corruption.]

Mona Charen: We’ve had information for a few weeks about Hunter Biden and his various entanglements, and we have word in the last week or two about Jared Kushner launching an investment fund that received a $2 billion investment from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. . . . Neither one of these is exactly palatable. What should we be taking ultra-seriously here?

Nicholas Grossman: The thing we should be taking ultra-seriously is Jared Kushner’s—and other members of the Trump administration’s—corruption. That doesn’t mean that we should ignore something from Hunter Biden or anybody else, but the comparison of them . . . is often used as a sort of whataboutism. . . .

Hunter has some degree of sleaziness that kind of reminds me of Roger Clinton, or maybe some other sleazy presidential relatives that have maybe traded on the family name. And that’s something that’s a conflict of interest that’s worth investigating perhaps. . . . But also, in the process of looking into it, it’s clear that [Hunter Biden] never held any government position, he didn’t change any government policy as a result of it.

And Kushner puts this into sharp relief. . . . He was somebody who, first, could not pass his security clearance applications because of concerning foreign ties. And Trump gave him a top White House position anyway—which is the president’s legal authority to do so. They can give any classified information to anybody at will. That’s within presidential power. So, it’s legal, but it’s really not good for the country. And the way that we saw it was not good for the country is that Kushner became a prominent consumer of U.S. intelligence—of things that didn’t even pertain to foreign policy he was working on—and he ran a sort of shadow foreign policy going around the State Department and the Defense Department.

He met with MBS [Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia], then trying to rise to and consolidate power, and . . . quite possibly gave him some classified U.S. intelligence. Because the next day, after [Kushner and MBS] had stayed up all night together, there was a big purge, a lot of Saudi arrests and consolidation of power and kind of generational turnover within Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia launched a blockade of Qatar with Kushner’s backing that was a surprise to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and also Defense Secretary James Mattis, who then had to go to the Middle East and try to reassure a bunch of partners because the U.S. was running the anti-ISIS air campaign out of a base in Qatar—which then, thanks to Kushner, the U.S. was now supporting a blockade for. And then, after not too long, there was a big investment from a Qatari company tied to the government that bailed out Jared Kushner’s terrible real estate investment at 666 Fifth Avenue. And then—guess what?—the U.S. backs off with the Qatar crisis.

The U.S. also, in part thanks to Kushner, transferred some nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, that went around Congress and might not be totally legal. It also helped cover up MBS’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist. . . . I don’t know how much it is a ‘thank you’ for past services rendered, or it is a down payment on the possibility that he’ll get back into power and future services rendered. But this is some of the biggest corruption that I think we’ve seen in U.S. history. I’m trying to think of a good analogue and there isn’t really one of a president putting his neophyte, corrupt son-in-law into such a senior position, who then uses his position to make money for himself.

I remember writing in 2016, of concerns about the Clinton Foundation, about the charity, that if Hillary was going to win, that there shouldn’t be some private interest of the president that foreign actors can give money to—even though it’s a charity and even though it has a record of having done some good work. . . .

And that was, I still think, a reasonable concern. And now we see the real thing at much bigger scale. And I don’t know if it is so many things going on—the war and COVID and all the other problems—or if it is that there’s so much corruption from the Trump administration, or if people are just kind of fed up with it or exhausted by it, but it is not getting nearly the attention that it deserves. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something so corrupt, and it changed U.S. policy in real detrimental ways. Part of the reason why U.S. policy is in trouble with Iran now is because Kushner took bribes to change it.

Nicholas Grossman

Nicholas Grossman is a political science professor at the University of Illinois and senior editor of Arc Digital. Follow him on Twitter @ngrossman81.