Payback for defending bin Salman? Saudis give $2 billion to Kushner’s fund

Former senior White House adviser Jared Kushner (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

A Saudi wealth fund led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman contributed over $2 billion to Jared Kushner’s new investment fund six months after Kushner left the White House, in what ethics experts say could be potential payback for defending the controversial Saudi leader.

Saudi Arabia’s $620 billion Public Investment Fund made the move despite serious misgivings expressed by its board of advisers about the merits of contributing to Kushner’s fledgling Affinity Partners investment organization, according to The New York Times.

Kushner, who was a senior Middle East adviser to his father-in-law former President Donald Trump, played a key role at the White House defending bin Salman after US intelligence concluded he was responsible for the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and columnist for the Washington Post, was a fierce critic of Saudi rules, particularly bin Salman. He was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of Saudi agents and his dismembered body was never found.

Trump suggested that “rogue killers” could have been involved in Khashoggi’s death, and never condemned the Saudi crown prince — discarding US intelligence that conduced he had approved the the gruesome murder.

“I was able to get Congress to leave him alone,” the former president told Washington Post Bob Woodward for his book “Rage.” Bin Salman “will always say that he didn’t do it,” Trump said. “He says that to everybody, and frankly I’m happy that he says that.”

Kushner, who was a real estate developer before joining the White House, played a part in pushing that narrative in the Trump administration. His new fund reported $2.5 billion, most of which appears to be the $2 billion from Saudi Arabia.

"Ethics experts say that such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner's actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024," the Times reports.

A panel that screens investments for the Saudi sovereign wealth fund had voted unanimously against investing in Kushner's fund, citing the "inexperience" of its management, an asset management fee that "seems excessive," and other “unsatisfactory” aspects of the new company.

The lucrative money ties between the Saudi leadership and Kushner raise serious ethics issues, particularly if Trump becomes president again.

Trump had created close bonds with the Saudi rulers during his tenure at the White House aligned his administration’s Mideast policy more closely with the oil-rick kingdom. Kushner facilitated the undertakings by cultivating a personal friendship with bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler. 

Kushner arranged for Trump to make his first official visit abroad to Riyadh, where he unveiled a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia, also negotiated by his son-in-law.

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