Senator Elizabeth Warren wants the US Department of Justice to “take a hard look” at whether laws were violated when Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law who was widely seen as the Saudi Arabian royal family’s fixer inside Donald Trump’s White House, collected $2 billion from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Massachusetts Democrat signaled that she thinks Congress could also open up an inquiry into the kickback, er, “investment,” which watchdogs say stinks of corruption.
Kushner, the famously incompetent real estate developer whose name has become synonymous with nepotism, was frequently accused of doing the bidding of the Saudi royal family while he “served” as senior adviser in an administration headed by his wife’s father. Kushner ardently defended the prince, known as MBS, in the face of an international outcry over the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence agencies determined had been approved by the monarch. Kushner dismissed concerns about the horrific assault on Yemen by the Saudi military. He arranged to expand US military support for the dictatorship. And he pushed to dramatically increase US weapons sales to the Saudis, promoting a $110 billion deal even as outrage over the Khashoggi murder mounted.
Despite his close ties to Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich elites, Kushner’s scheming to secure a massive investment in the private equity fund he launched after leaving the White House in January 2021 ran into some initial challenges. There were whispers that Trump had finally figured out that everything his son-in-law touched fell apart. And a panel of financial experts employed by the Saudi royals to review requests for their money warned the overseers of Saudi Arabia’s $620 billion Public Investment Fund that Kushner lacked experience running an investment fund of the sort he proposed, was having trouble attracting investors in the United States, and was pitching a “proposal” for his Affinity Fund that was “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”
The warnings were dismissed and the Saudi fund—which is chaired by MBS—sent a couple billion Kushner’s way. How important was that “investment”? As of March 31, according to public filings, the Saudi money accounts for four-fifths of all the money Kushner’s fund is managing.
Revelations about the sordid deal made headlines last week in The New York Times and other major news outlets around the world, and this week the media and top Democrats are calling for investigations.
“If people actually cared about corruption by the president’s family members, Saudi Arabia giving Jared Kushner $2 billion would be the biggest story in America right now,” declared the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics & Responsibility in Washington on Monday. Former US secretary of labor Robert Reich noted how Kushner “cashes in” on his connection with Trump. Journalist and MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan said the $2 billion “investment” by the Saudi’s in Kushner’s latest scheme represents “a huge story of both corruption and human rights abuses.”
But Warren’s intervention is the most consequential. Asked about the story during an interview on the podcast Pod Save America, the senator said, “I think there’s a question that the Department of Justice should take a really hard look to see if [the arrangement may] violate any of our criminal laws.”
The senator did not stop there. “I think this is a moment when Congress needs to do a lot more about corruption,” added Warren.
The Saudi deal is not the only potential crime involving Kushner that the DOJ and Congress should investigate. There is also the matter of his oversight of the Trump administration’s scandal-plagued “Project Airbridge” scheme, which I write about at length in my book Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers.
Kushner and his cronies arranged to use taxpayer money to fly medical equipment from overseas manufacturers to the United States at the height of the pandemic, but then let private corporations sell the supplies at a hefty profit. “Project Air Bridge—like the broader Trump Administration response to coronavirus—has been marked by delays, incompetence, confusion, and secrecy involving multiple Federal agencies and actors,” Senators Warren, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a 2020 letter to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. That letter raised concerns about Project Airbridge’s misspending of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and called for an inquiry.
There’s no question that Kushner’s Trump administration machinations merit a congressional inquiry. Nor should there be any question that Kushner’s post-Trump administration hustling of the Saudis merits a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.