Jared Kushner Had a Friendly Little Reunion With His Saudi Pals (the Ones Who Gave Him a $2 Billion Check)
As you might have heard, the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is extremely strained at the moment, on account of an October 5 oil production cut that not only benefited Russia financially, but also increased already-rising energy costs for Americans. Yet one person’s friendship with the kingdom has never been better, and it probably will not surprise you to hear that that person is former first son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had a happy little reunion with his Saudi pals this week.
On Tuesday, Kushner showed up for the first day of a three-day conference nicknamed Davos in the Desert, which is taking place in Riyadh and is put on by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which appeared to roll out the red carpet for the Boy Prince of New Jersey:
If the Public Investment Fund sounds familiar to you, that might be because it’s the organization that wrote Kushner’s newly formed private-equity firm a $2 billion check last year. That made the news not just because $2 billion is a very large sum of money, but because the fund’s board—which happens to be led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—reportedly ignored the concerns of the fund’s due diligence panel, which concluded that no one in their right mind would give the former first son-in-law a dime. Among other things, the panel noted that management was “inexperience[d],” that the kingdom would be responsible for “the bulk of the investment and risk,” that Kushner’s fee seemed “excessive,” and that the firm’s operations were “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”
That the fund gave Kushner $2 billion to invest anyway—and at least $25 million to pocket regardless of performance—led many to conclude that the check was a thank-you to Kushner for his defense of MBS over the murder of Saudi dissident and US resident Jamal Khashoggi. (As a reminder, Kushner reportedly urged Donald Trump to support the prince, arguing that the whole situation—wherein a man was kidnapped, killed, and dismembered via bone saw—would blow over. Later, he defended MBS in his memoir, writing that he chose to set aside his concerns about the grisly murder and focus on all the supposedly positive things the guy had done.) While Kushner has insisted that his going to bat for bin Salman had absolutely nothing to do with the large some of money he subsequently received, others are not convinced.
In June, the House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into the $2 billion investment. As Rep. Carolyn Maloney wrote in a letter to Kushner that month: “The Committee is concerned by your decision to solicit billions of dollars from the Saudi government immediately following your significant involvement in shaping U.S.-Saudi relations.” She added that, among other things, his close ties with MBS “create the appearance of a quid pro quo for your foreign policy work during the Trump Administration.”
The US Treasury, Commerce, and State departments all previously told The New York Times that their top officials would not be attending Davos in the Desert. While Kushner is not the only American businessman to make the trip—the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Blackstone are all there, as is the founder of Bridgewater Associates—he’s definitely the only one who personally helped bin Salman get out of an extremely sticky situation, and might have been rewarded for doing so.
In other Saudi news, Kushner’s father-in-law hosted a heavily criticized Saudi-funded tournament at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, over the summer. In response to outrage from families of 9/11 victims, he falsely and bizarrely claimed that “nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11.” Like father like son-in-law!