A year ago this month, Jared Kushner took an unannounced trip to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, to pay a visit to his friend Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, aka MbS. The two men had “forged a bond” since spending time together in Washington the previous March, speaking frequently on the telephone.
And why not? Aside from obvious differences—one was an Orthodox Jew, the other lived in a country where being an Orthodox Jew was illegal—they had much in common. They were about the same age, both ambitious, both the hidden powers behind their respective thrones, both men of wealth and taste. In Riyadh last October, the two stayed up until four in the morning, “swapping stories and planning strategy,” as David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post.
One of the “stories” swapped, apparently, was classified information compiled from the president’s daily brief, which Kushner reportedly consumed religiously. According to the Intercept:
“In June [of 2017], Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and took his place as next in line to the throne, upending the established line of succession. In the months that followed, the President’s Daily Brief contained information on Saudi Arabia’s evolving political situation, including a handful of names of royal family members opposed to the crown prince’s power grab, according to the former White House official and two U.S. government officials with knowledge of the report.”
During that October Riyadh getaway, Kushner reportedly proffered these names to MbS:
“What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.”
The result was what MbS has since termed an “anti-corruption crackdown,” but was really a purge of the disloyal. On November 4, soon after Kushner returned to Washington, MbS “arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and imprisoned them in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh,” per The Intercept. “The Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up; at least one was reportedly tortured.”
President Trump, who digs this sort of despotic muscle-flexing, tweeted out support of MbS.
“In the months that followed, the arrestees were coerced into signing over billions in personal assets to the Saudi government. In December, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Maj. Gen. Ali al-Qahtani had been tortured to death in the Ritz. Qahtani’s body showed signs of mistreatment, including a neck that was “twisted unnaturally as though it had been broken,” bruises, and “burn marks that appeared to be from electric shocks,” the New York Times reported.”
What might have prompted Kushner to give such information? We don’t know, but months after his visit with MbS, Charles Kushner, Jared’s father and business partner, secured a bailout for their albatross of a loan on the 666 Fifth Avenue property that was costing Kushner Properties millions. The deal, which went through in August, was with Brookfield Property Partners, which is funded in part by Qatar Investment Authority, which has direct ties to the government of Qatar.
Did MbS use his leverage to make the Qataris do the deal? Is that what he meant when he told the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was “in his pocket”? Or is it all a coincidence?