Early this morning, The Nation published a short piece in support of Elizabeth Warren's demand of the DOJ that they investigate the $2 billion the Saudi royal mobster family gave Kushner by John Nichols, Jared Kushner’s Saudi Side-Hustle Merits a Full-On Criminal Inquiry. Whether it was a reward for services rendered or a bribe for future dealings with the GOP, no one-- including Saudi financial experts-- thinks it was a serious investment. As Nichols noted, "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."
“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.”
Yesterday's Our Land newsletter by David Corn asked bluntly, Why the Hell Isn’t Jared Kushner’s $2 Billion Saudi Payment a Big Scandal? Referring the scandal Jimmy Carter's drunken brother Billy caused by working fro the Libyans, Corn wrote that "Billygate is a good point of reference when assessing what could be called Jaredgate. On April 10, the New York Times revealed that Jared Kushner... secured a $2 billion investment for his new private equity firm, Affinity Partners, from a fund controlled by the Saudi crown prince-- even after advisers to the Saudi fund raised serious objections to the investment. The screening panel for the Saudi fund had cited 'the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management'; an 'unsatisfactory in all aspects' due diligence report; a proposed asset management fee that seemed 'excessive'; and 'public relations risks.' Yet the panel was overruled by the fund’s board, which is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s autocratic de facto leader, who, according to US intelligence, green-lit the operation that resulted in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
It's damn hard to not see the $2 billion investment as either a payoff for past services rendered or a preemptive bribe should Trump manage to regain the White House. And it could be both. It’s a wonder that the disclosure of this deal hasn’t created more of a fuss and prompted congressional investigations. (Imagine what Republicans and Fox News would be doing if Hunter Biden received $2 billion from a Ukrainian government leader who was responsible for the gruesome murder of an American resident.) A 10-figure payment to a relative of a former president who is essentially the current (though undeclared) GOP frontrunner in the 2024 contest and possibly the next inhabitant of the White House is a major scandal.
Or it should be.
...The amount is twice as much and the terms of this deal are more generous than the investment the same Saudi fund made with the more experienced former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Moreover, the MBS-approved investment comprises the bulk of the money Kushner has collected for Affinity Partners. He had been looking to round up $7 billion, but apparently few moneybags out there share the Saudis’ confidence in Ivanka Trump’s husband. Affinity Partners’ most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows that it has raised only $500 million beyond the cash from MBS’s $620 billion fund.
...Whatever the past or future quid pro quos, if any, this deal stinks and demands congressional scrutiny. Allowing foreign authoritarians to shower billions of dollars upon family members of past, present, or future presidents is ethically wrong but carries a greater threat. As Ali Al-Ahmed, the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, wrote in the Washington Post, “The prospect of a dictator using his deep pockets to wield influence at the highest levels of the U.S. political system should be cause for serious concern and targeted action. Not all attacks on American democracy will take the shape of violent insurrections-- the corruption of the Saudi-Kushner deal is an attack on democracy, too.”
Last week, 30 House members wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for a review of US-Saudi relations. The letter read in part:
A recalibration of the U.S.-Saudi partnership is long overdue in order to reflect President Biden’s important commitment to uphold human rights and democratic values in our foreign policy. Our continued unqualified support for the Saudi monarchy, which systematically, ruthlessly represses its own citizens, targets critics all over the world, carries out a brutal war in Yemen, and bolsters authoritarian regimes throughout the Middle East and North Africa, runs counter to U.S. national interests and damages the credibility of the United States to uphold our values.
These members have the power to examine the rotten-smelling Kushner-MBS relationship that far surpasses anything that Hunter Biden could have dreamed of. If Trump does run for president, this should be a campaign issue. With his son-in-law (and daughter) benefiting from a $2 billion sweetheart deal with MBS, the transactional gain for the Saudis from a second Trump administration could be huge. Will Kushner pledge to have no role-- official or unofficial-- with a Trump White House in the future? If he did, would anyone believe that?
The Trump cosmos is full of grift and scandal. And what’s $2 billion compared to an attempt to overturn an election and incite violent insurrection? But in a world of never-ending Trump sleaze, this shady venture does stand out as especially egregious. At the very least, Kushner deserves the Billygate treatment.
What do GOP spokemodels like Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have to say? Click the image to watch this very cool new video from the Republican Accountability Project: