Jared Kushner gave Saudi crown prince advice after Khashoggi slaying: NY Times

 

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, flouted White House protocol by having private, informal conversations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — both before and after the widely publicized killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a Saturday report in The New York Times.

Kushner “offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm” following the journalist’s death, the Times said, citing a Saudi source. Kushner also reportedly became the prince’s “most important defender inside the White House” as the Saudi royal, often referred to by his initials MBS, faced mounting global scrutiny over his alleged involvement in the killing. 

The CIA has reportedly confirmed Mohammed’s complicity in Khashoggi’s slaying. President Trump has dismissed such evidence, however, suggesting last month that even if the prince did personally order the killing, the U.S. would still maintain a close relationship with its wealthy ally.

The Times report detailed the “bromance” between Kushner and the crown prince, and the alleged years-long effort made by the Saudis to “woo” Kushner, which included a meeting with the prince’s top aides that took place the same month that Trump was elected. 

White House protocol dictates that National Security Council staff should be present on all phone calls with foreign leaders. Yet, according to the Times, Kushner defied this rule and “kept chatting” privately to the prince. “The two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls,” the report said, citing several former White House officials. 

RELATED: Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018. Pompeo also met on Tuesday with Saudi King Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)
FILE - In this Thursday, June 14, 2018 file photo, President Vladimir Putin, shakes hands with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, during their meeting in Moscow, Russia. (Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via AP)
ARCHIVO - En esta fotografía de archivo del 12 de abril de 2018, el príncipe heredero saudí Mohammed bin Salman se prepara para irse tras una ceremonia con el jefe de gobierno español Mariano Rajoy en Madrid, España. (AP Foto/Paul White, archivo)
Spain's King Felipe, left, his wife Queen Letizia, right, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud stand to welcome guests before a lunch at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)
This photo released Monday, April 9, 2018 on the official twitter page of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, shows Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, takes a selfie with French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, in the King George V Hotel, in Paris, France. (The official twitter page of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri via AP)
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on September 30, 2018 shows the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (R), welcoming Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City. (Photo by Bandar AL-JALOUD / various sources / AFP) / XGTY (Photo credit should read BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L-R) during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
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The chummy relationship between Kushner and Prince Mohammed has come under scrutiny before. An earlier report by The Intercept said Mohammed had “bragged” about Kushner being “in his pocket.” CNN reported in October that the two men had used the chat app Whatsapp to communicate. 

The White House has insisted that Kushner has toed the line in his interactions with the prince. In the immediate aftermath of the Khashoggi killing, a spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that Kushner “has always meticulously followed protocols and collaborated with colleagues regarding the relationship with [Crown Prince Mohammed] and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts.” 

An almost verbatim statement was issued to the Times this week. 

Since Khashoggi’s death, the only conversation between Kushner and Mohammed that the White House has publicly acknowledged is an Oct. 10 phone call that National Security Adviser John Bolton also sat in on. 

When Kushner was asked by CNN’s Van Jones about what he said to the prince during that call, he said he had urged Mohammed to “be sure you’re transparent and to take this very seriously.”

“The world is watching,” Kushner said, recalling the advice he offered the prince. “This is a very, very serious accusation. A very serious situation.”

“We’ll see” if he takes that advice, Kushner added.

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