President Trump is reportedly very unhappy with the relationship between his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. In fact, according to an account of a phone interview with the Washington Post late Saturday, Trump believes that Kushner is more of a liability than an asset, and he is hurting relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
New tensions have arisen due to the unexplained disappearance and reported death of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump had told originally told reporters on Friday that he believed the Saudi explanation to be “credible.”
In Saturday conversations, however, unnamed U.S. officials reported that Trump has privately “grimaced” that Kushner’s acknowledged close relationship with the Saudi crown prince has done more harm than good, and Kushner has left the White House with no good options.
In the Post interview, Trump defended Kushner as doing a “very good job” but acknowledged that he and the crown prince, both in their 30s, are relatively young for the amount of power they wield.
“They’re two young guys. Jared doesn’t know him well or anything. They are just two young people. They are the same age. They like each other, I believe,” Trump said.
According to the Post:
“The Trump administration made its relationship with Mohammed a linchpin of its Middle East policy, relying on him to help strike a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis and unite the Arab world against Iran. Now, the Saudi government’s handling of the killing of a Washington Post contributing columnist has tarnished Mohammed’s image as the Trump administration is questioning the value of its high-profile partnership with him.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi national, was a U.S. resident and writer for the Post.
He disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Saudi explanations for his disappearance have met with widespread speculation. There is now evidence suggesting that Khashoggi was killed at Mohammed’s order as part of his crackdown on dissenters in his kingdom.
The crown prince and Kushner have been meeting together for years, and the presidential son-in-law has promoted the young heir to the Saudi throne as a good potential partner for the U.S.. While the relationship between Kushner and Mohammed was initially seen as furthering U.S. Middle East policies, that is no longer the case. Many inside the Trump administration are now questioning if the partnership is worth tying itself to the tainted image of the young crown prince.
CNN reported earlier this week that Kushner had private correspondence with Mohammed through private channels. This is not permitted under U.S. guidelines, and the lack of information concerning Kushner’s communications has raised serious concerns among administration officials.
A White House spokesperson, however, said that Kushner “has always meticulously followed protocols and collaborated with colleagues regarding the relationship with [Crown Prince Mohammed] and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts.”
That may or may not be true. But one thing that has become clear is that Jared Kushner has been pursuing his own agenda with Mohammed and Saudi Arabia, and this may not be in the best interests of the United States.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.