And the plot thickens. Donald Trump has taken a firm pro-Saudi stance in the wake of the disappearance and presumed death of American resident Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was vocally critical of the Saudi ruling royal family. That royal family also has close ties to the Trumps by virtue of Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband and the president’s son-in-law.
Kushner, a senior White House adviser, has maintained close ties to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, for years. Kushner has gotten close to the prince recently as part of his White House duties. Among many other tasks, Kushner has been charged with restoring peace to the Middle East.
Kushner and the prince met at the White House in March 2017, reports NPR. They have had at least four face-to-face meetings since that date and sources say the two have a close bond.
There is evidence that Kushner has business interests in Saudi Arabia. Kushner’s background is in real estate, just like Donald Trump. In May, a report from Bloomberg News found that a technology company Kushner partly owns was in talks to receive private funding, backed by the government of Saudi Arabia, to the tune of $100 million. That’s quite a bit of money. The deal ultimately fell through.
The Saudi Arabian royal family, the King and Prince bin Salman, have denied all knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance. The journalist entered the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 2. Surveillance footage captured him going inside. He never walked back out.
Since then, officials in Turkey have said they have video and audio evidence that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Reportedly, his body was dismembered.
The Washington Post to publish a special edition Op-Ed page with new column by Jamal Khashoggi. In the piece filed just before he disappeared, he discusses the need for a free press in the Mideast. https://t.co/IOuP7u1DTr— Washington Post PR (@WashPostPR) October 17, 2018
Trump has said that perhaps “rogue killers” murdered the journalist, according to The Guardian. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia exchange a great deal of oil, weapons, and money.
Saudi Arabia has angered the international community through a poor human rights record. The country has earned black marks for civilian deaths during an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen, and the royal family has drawn criticism for imprisoning potential rivals for the throne. Saudi Arabia has therefore increased its lobbying efforts in Washington, spending $27 million in 2017 alone. Of that, $400,000 went into campaign funds for senators and congresspeople.
Prince Mohammed called the White House to speak with Kushner earlier this week. When the call was returned, national security adviser John Bolton was also on the phone with Kushner. When the call ended, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put in his own call to the prince, reports CNN.
Kushner is being seen at Trump’s side a little less this week as members of Congress and the American public are crying out for a thorough investigation of the disappearance and perhaps a re-evaluation of America’s ties to Saudi Arabia.