Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly bragged to a Middle Eastern leader that he had White House adviser Jared Kushner “in his pocket.” Kushner may have also violated federal law if he gave bin Salman classified information from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) without Trump’s authorization to help bin Salman put his political rivals under house arrest.
According to a Wednesday report in the Intercept, before he had his security clearance downgraded from the temporary top-secret level, Kushner had access to the PDB, and he reportedly voraciously consumed information about Saudi Arabia.
After bin Salman ousted then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and started to consolidate his power last year, Trump’s PDB reportedly “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.” Bin Salman arrived in Washington on Wednesday and he and his advisers dined with Kushner.
In October, Kushner made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia that reportedly deeply “unsettled” intelligence officials. The Intercept report sheds light on why national security officials were so troubled by Kushner’s meeting at the time with bin Salman, who reportedly “told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince.” Kushner’s attorney’s spokesperson denied that Kushner had such discussions.
Days after Kushner left Saudi Arabia last October, bin Salman put many of his political rivals and prominent business executives under house arrest. “Three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown” told the Intercept that “the Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up” and “at least one was reportedly tortured.”
Those put under house arrest included: “eleven senior princes, several current or former ministers, the owners of three major television stations, the head of the most important military branch, and one of the wealthiest men in the world, who has been a major shareholder in Citibank, Twentieth Century Fox, Apple, Twitter, and Lyft.”
“It’s the equivalent of waking up to find Warren Buffett and the heads of ABC, CBS and NBC have been arrested,” a former U.S. official told the New Yorker. “It has all the appearances of a coup d’état. Saudi Arabia is rapidly becoming another country. The kingdom has never been this unstable.”
Bin Salman reportedly told United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed about his discussions with Kushner, according to the Intercept, and bragged that even he had Kushner “in his pocket.” According to the report, if Kushner discussed classified information from the PDB with bin Salman without presidential authorization, “he may have violated federal laws around the sharing of classified intelligence.”
Kushner has reportedly gotten so close to Messrs. bin Salman and bin Zayad that he regularly communicates with them “directly using WhatsApp,” the messaging app that is reportedly “popular in the Middle East.”
Kushner reportedly lost access to his top-secret security clearance because of his secret meetings with foreign government officials and financiers. In addition, officials from at least four countries—China, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Mexico—have reportedly discussed how they can manipulate Kushner “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience,” according to a Washington Post report.
National security and intelligence officials have reportedly been worried since Kushner’s first days in the White House that his “lack of government experience and his business debt” were “potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him.”