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Kushner in close contact with Saudi prince after Khasshogi killing

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Jared Kushner has reportedly developed a close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and routinely spoke with the Saudi leader even after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, who wrote columns for The Washington Post was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is widely suspected of ordering Khashoggi’s killing.

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, continued to be in close contact with the crown prince amid global outcry over Khashoggi’s fate as the royal family went into damage control mode, two former senior US officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis told The New York Times.

What’s more, Kushner allegedly provided the crown prince with advice on how to “weather the storm” and urged the Saudi leader to “resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Masayoshi Son, SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and CEO, and Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director, attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2017.
Reuters

Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince is causing concern

Top American officials are apparently quite concerned about the nature of Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince, who’s controversial ascent to power in the kingdom has sparked concern across the world.

The two men are on a first-name basis, and have frequently spoken over the past two years, The Times reported, citing former officials, text messages, and emails.

The Saudis have apparently made a concerted effort to foster a close relationship with the crown prince and Kushner, and seem to view him as their greatest asset within the Trump administration.

Read more: ‘I can’t breathe’: Transcript of audio recording from Jamal Khashoggi’s murder reportedly describes him gasping for air in his last moments

Kushner’s alleged discussions with Prince Mohammed seemingly mark a violation of longstanding protocol calling for National Security Council staff members to participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

The White House has only acknowledged one phone call between Kushner and Prince Mohammed that occurred after Khashoggi’s death. The chat occurred on October 10 and National Security Advisor John Bolton was present. In a statement provided to The Times, the White House said the Saudis were “asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process” during the call.

Trump has stood by Prince Mohammed over Khashoggi’s killing, and it could be because of Kushner

The Saudi government’s narrative on what happened to Khashoggi has shifted multiple times, from initially denying any involvement in his fate to acknowledging he was killed within the consulate. But the Saudis have maintained Prince Mohammed had no involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.

Meanwhile, the CIA has reportedly concluded the crown prince ordered the hit on the journalist, who’d often been critical of the royal family in his writing.

Read more: Jared Kushner’s close relationship with Saudi officials is reportedly the result of a 2-year influence mission

The Trump administration has largely stood by Prince Mohammed, despite the damning evidence and allegations against him. The White House has even been unmoved by the fact prominent members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called for a dramatic reevaluation of the US-Saudi partnership in the wake of Khashoggi’s killing.

President Donald Trump has touted the importance of the relationship between the US and the kingdom, citing arms deals and low oil prices, in defense of his gentle response to the brutal murder of a journalist. Trump has faced accusations of undermining the US intelligence community over this stance.

The president’s defense of the crown prince and willingness to stand by him may have been a product of Kushner’s close ties with the Saudi ruler.

As INSIDER’s Ellen Cranley recently reported:

  • Kushner’s close contact with Saudi officials has been previously reported. The Washington Post reported last month that the crown prince had told Kushner in a phone call that Khashoggi was a “ dangerous Islamist” just days after the journalist went missing.
  • Their relationship may have been the catalyst for Kushner’s previously efforts to persuade Trump to stand by Crown Prince Mohammed through the uproar over Khashoggi’s killing.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from INSIDER.

‘I think the Saudis believe they have a blank check from this presidency’

Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince has been a subject of great speculation for some time, long before Khashoggi’s killing.

In October 2017, for example, Kushner made a mysterious trip to Riyadh that reportedly caught intelligence officials off guard. During the visit, Kushner and the crown prince stayed up “until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” The Washington Post reported.

The crown prince has reportedly bragged to other leaders in the region he has Kushner “in his pocket.”

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman escorts White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and his wife White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump at the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In October, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told INSIDER he was concerned the president was giving the Saudis a pass on Khashoggi’s killing because of the relationship between the Trump family and the Saudi royal family. Murphy has been among the most vocal critics of US-Saudi relations, particularly in terms of its ongoing support for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen conflict.

“I’m very concerned that US national security policy is for sale and that the business connection between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family may explain why this administration has been so soft on the Saudis throughout the past two years, but especially the past week,” Murphy said at the time.

“I think the Saudis believe they have a blank check from this presidency,” Murphy added. “I don’t understand why there’s such a close relationship between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family.”

Following Khashoggi’s killing, Trump sought to dispel the notion his stance on Saudi Arabia is motivated by business.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” Trump tweeted on October 18. “Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”

But the president’s business have accepted a significant amount of money from the Saudi government, which Trump publicly boasted about in the past. “I get along great with all of them; they buy apartments from me,” Trump said of the Saudis at a 2015 campaign rally. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

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