A Saudi Arabian crown prince who at age 32 has rapidly become the most powerful man in his country recently boasted to other Arab leaders that he has Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner “in his pocket,” according to an explosive investigative report published by The Intercept news site on Wednesday.
But merely claiming to control Kushner — who is the husband of Trump’s daughter and who wields extraordinary levels or responsibility within the Trump administration — was not enough for the Saudi prince, who also has privately claimed that his influence over Kushner was what led to the firing on March 13 of United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to a separate investigation by Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
The 37-year-old Kushner and de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known simply by his initials MBS, have formed a close bond over the past year, but according to the new reports on Wednesday, that relationship appears to be strikingly one-sided, perhaps unbeknownst to Kushner.
The Intercept report, which may be read in full at this link, also alleges that Kushner revealed secret intelligence information to MBS during an impromptu trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last October.
“The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” The Washington Post wrote of the October meeting, perhaps sarcastically referring to Trump’s son-in-law as a “prince.”
While the exact subjects of the conversations between Kushner and MBS have not been publicly reported, according to The Intercept, the Saudi prince later confided to friends that Kushner had revealed the names of Saudis who opposed the prince’s ascent to power — names that came directly from Trump’s daily briefing.
Less than one month later, MBS ordered the arrests of 11 political opponents on corruption charges, in a move that observers say was designed to purge the upper echelons of Saudi royal politics and solidify his power. Whether any of those arrested were among the names allegedly revealed by Kushner to the Saudi prince is unknown.
Kushner, through a spokesperson, denied that he had leaked the names to MBS. Nonetheless, according to the Intercept report, MBS later bragged to United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was “in his pocket.” Kushner, who has only an “interim” security clearance, lost access to the Daily Brief last month.
But according to the Daily Mail report, MBS continues to hold sway over Kushner, and as a result of U.S. policy — even causing the firing of the U.S. Secretary of State.
“MBS is claiming that firing Tillerson was one of his requests to Trump via Kushner to be implemented before his visit to the U.S. and it appears that he got what he wanted,” a source told the paper. The Saudi prince is in Washington D.C. for high-level talks this week.
Tillerson was said to favor a nuclear weapons deal with Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival, Iran, enraging the Saudis who then used Kushner to get Tillerson fired, according to the Mail report.
The purge of political opponents by MBS was reportedly brutal, with one rival, Major General Ali Al-Qahtani dying after he was repeatedly tortured by electrical shocks, according to reports in the Arabic press.
Tillerson has reportedly been privately critical of Kushner’s “freelancing” in foreign policy areas, which may have given Kushner an additional motivation to press for his firing.