NEW YORK — One little noticed takeaway from a Washington Post article claiming that four foreign countries have “privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner” is that U.S. intelligence agencies are apparently spying on Israeli officials.
Citing “current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter,” the Post reported that Israel, the United Arab Emirates, China and Mexico were each discussing ways to influence Kushner in an advantageous manner, although it is unclear whether any countries acted to do so. Kushner is President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
The officials further said there has been concern that Kushner’s inexperience in government and the debt of his family’s real estate firm could be utilized by foreign nations to seek points of leverage. There was concern over Kushner’s contact with certain foreign countries, the officials added, revealing that the issue has been a factor in holding up Kushner’s permanent security clearance.
When it came to Israel, the Post did not cite any information that indicates wrongdoing or that Israel was seeking ways to leverage Kushner based on his family’s business ties.
Israel was mentioned as “among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage,” but no specific details were provided. The piece allowed that “foreign governments routinely discuss ways they can influence senior officials in all administrations.”
“Every country will seek to find their point of leverage,” one person familiar with intelligence intercepts told the newspaper.
UAE officials, however, discussed Kushner’s potential manipulability due to efforts by his family’s firm, Kushner Cos, to seek investors, the report claimed. Kushner divested his stake in the company when he entered the White House at the start of the Trump administration.
The Post did not specify the origins of the information cited in the purported intelligence reports. At one point in the article, the Post referred to “intelligence intercepts of foreign officials discussing Kushner,” which could indicate intercepted communications of Israeli officials.
It is not uncommon for allies to spy on each other, nor does the report mark the first time in recent years that U.S. intelligence agencies were said to have monitored Israeli communications. However, it seems to be the first public report of intelligence agencies under the Trump administration potentially spying on the Jewish state.
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration conducted surveillance of Israeli officials, going so far as to sweep up conversations that Israeli leaders had with members of Congress as well as with Jewish leaders about the Iran nuclear deal. That reported surveillance was part of an apparent bid to thwart opposition to the controversial nuclear agreement. According to the Journal report, the National Security Agency intercepts included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own conversations as well as communications of other Israeli leaders.
In 2016, documents leaked to the news media and attributed to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden claimed that the NSA and its British counterpart had monitored communications and secret missions of Israel‘s air force as part of a hacking operation that started in 1998.
On Tuesday, Politico first reported that Kushner had his top-secret security clearance downgraded to a secret clearance after months of delays related to his background-check process. The move came amid a larger crackdown initiated by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on officials working with interim security clearances.
Reacting to the Washington Post‘s report about foreign nations allegedly discussing ways to manipulate Kushner, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer, said, “We will not respond substantively to unnamed sources peddling second-hand hearsay with rank speculation that continue to leak inaccurate information.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.