Why The Saudis Just Gave Kushner $2 Billion
There's a never-ending informal competition between the Florida Democratic Party and the Ohio Democratic Party-- which one if worse, worst and more totally useless. Successful Democratic politicians in Ohio-- Sherrod Brown-- have their own party apparatus and count on the state party for nothing. Florida doesn't have successful statewide Democratic politicians so there's nothing to compare Ohio to. Democrats in Ohio and Florida would be better if if both parties officially were buried and they started over again from scratch.
But what about the dominant Republican Party in each state. Forever pundit Al Hunt, writing this morning for The Hill, looked at the Ohio Republican Party. He didn't like what he saw: a mainstream conservative party has turned into a bizarre collection of fascists and Trumpists. He reminded his readers that "Going into the May 3 Republican primary to succeed Portman, who’s retiring, the top candidates tried to out-Trump one another, with author J.D. Vance winning the pandering contest Friday with the endorsement of the defeated former president. The most important Ohio Republican in Congress is Rep. Jim Jordan, whom former House Speaker Boehner calls a “political terrorist,” and who has been accused of helping to cover up a sex abuse scandal when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State."
You can see why he mentioned "cesspool" in his title. Oh, and "corruption" and "craziness."
It’s worse in Columbus, where charges in a $61 million bribery case claim a large troubled company, First Energy, paid state legislators to get a sweetheart deal that bailed out the company at the expense of Ohio consumers. “I haven’t seen anything like it,” a top FBI investigator told the Columbus Dispatch. “This case is in a league of its own.”
While a number of Republican officials and lobbyists were charged-- one of the lobbyists died by suicide-- the central figure is the former GOP Speaker Larry Householder, who allegedly got most of the dark money, undisclosed, and-- while taking some for personal use-- parceled it out to Republican legislative candidates who won and voted for the bill that bailed out the energy company’s nuclear but mainly coal operations and gutted efficiency standards. The cost is more than $1 billion.
Householder has pleaded not guilty, as has former Ohio Republican party chair Matt Borges.
This is the second Republican House Speaker forced out under a cloud. Four years ago, Cliff Rosenberger resigned when under federal investigation for public corruption. That investigation is still open.
Much of Ohio’s corruption is fueled by egregiously gerrymandered legislative seats. Dark money from special interests is funneled to politicians whose districts are so gerrymandered they are less likely to be held accountable for scandals like First Energy. Ohio Republicans have enhanced this advantage by a series of voter suppression measures.
The state supreme sourt, with a Republican chief justice, has repeatedly rejected the current redistricting as in violation of the state’s constitution; thus, the state legislative primaries won’t be held May 3, but later-- when the redistricting is resolved.
GOP Gov. Mike DeWine won general praise for his handling of the pandemic, but mandates and shutdowns generated two right-wing challengers; they’ll probably split the anti-DeWine vote.
Jordan, with no real opposition, likely will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee-- if he doesn’t run for Speaker-- should the GOP take control of the House. Jordan was an Ohio State wrestling coach when many athletes-- including a number of wrestlers-- were sexually assaulted by a university doctor. At least six wrestlers say Jordan knew about the abuse and didn’t do anything. The Republican lawmaker denies this.
An independent investigation found that Ohio State officials knew for years and did nothing. Recently the university successfully lobbied the Republican legislature against extending the statute of limitations on these offenses. Jordan still may face an embarrassment: a docuseries, funded by George Clooney, is in the works about the Ohio State sex abuse scandal.
In the Republican Senate primary, the leading candidates all embrace the lie that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from Trump.
J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy, about the cultural and social challenges facing poorer working-class whites, was anti-Trump-- but flipped and ingratiated himself with claims such as that support for Ukraine is a “massive distraction” from the real peril of drug peddlers and prospective Democratic voters illegally coming across the Southern border.
The others tried. Perennial candidate Josh Mandel likened President Biden’s vaccine mandates to the “Gestapo.” Mike Gibbons, a wealthy banker gaining in the polls, said the middle class doesn’t pay enough taxes, suggesting the rich bear too big a burden.
Some longtime conservative and former Republican office holders shake their heads at the corruption and craziness.
Jim Petro, who was a Republican legislator, state auditor and Ohio attorney general says: “When I look at these Senate candidates, it’s not my party.” On corruption he worries that “an abundance of power makes the party overconfident.” Gary Abernathy, an influential conservative columnist who lives in Ohio, writes simply that the State’s “Republican party is in absolute chaos.”
Of course, this isn't just an Ohio problem. The GOP is a rotten hulk and a dedicated enemy of democracy and of our country. On Friday Vicky Ward wrote about how Saudi's crown prince came to entrust $2 billion to financial novice Jared Kushner over the objections by a panel of financial advisers who highlighted Kushner’s lack of track record. At the heart of the decision is the reason Kushner was denied a top-secret security clearance by the CIA.
"I’m told," she wrote, "it was Kushner and Kushner’s allies who blocked top-level U.S. government support for MBS’s cousin, former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN)-- a long-time intelligence and counter-terrorist asset for the U.S.-- when MBN attempted a legal coup d’état in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2017. MBN believed he had enough support from the so-called 'Council of Ministers' to back him in a regime change. If successful, both King Salman and MBS (then deputy crown prince) would have been unseated and replaced by MBN. My sources tell me it was Kushner and his allies in the White House who got word to MBS of bin Nayef’s plans, and the plot was abruptly stopped. (As I’ve mentioned before, a spokesperson for Kushner has denied passing on intelligence to the Saudis). But, according to three sources with knowledge, it was this meddling in Saudi royal affairs that caused U.S. intelligence officials to go 'apoplectic' and prevent Kushner from getting a top-level security clearance. MBN has not been heard from since his arrest in March 2020, when he was imprisoned somewhere in Saudi Arabia. Sporadic reports of his health have not been good, to put it mildly."
According to Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer and senior fellow of both intelligence and Middle East policy at Brookings who has known MBN, it was “highly plausible” that Kushner was “paid off” for getting MBN out of the way.
It’s a view I’ve heard echoed by three other sources in the intelligence community who are experienced in the region and who dealt with Kushner.
“MBN remains the most likely successor, if MBS was ever moved out of the way, despite being in prison for three years now,” says Riedel. “He is a genuine national hero. He risked his life more than once to fight Al-Qaeda and delivered. And I think he became an opponent of the war [in] Yemen. And of course the war [in] Yemen is MBS’s signature foreign policy. I've always wondered why the agency was reluctant to give Jared top-secret clearance, and spilling intelligence to the Saudis [about MBN] would be a reason.”
What is already known from public records and reports is that, in May 2017, the Saudi ministry to the interior (Nayef’s purview) hired the D.C. firm of Trump-friendly lobbyist Robert Stryk for $5.4 million to work for bin Nayef and provide “broad advisory services including public relations and media engagement as well as public affairs counsel along with marketing and outreach as pertaining to the United States.” (Stryk filed a FARA (Foreign Rights Registration Act) disclosure.) This was just weeks after MBS—then only deputy crown prince—paid a visit to the White House in March, where he reportedly met with Trump and, separately, Kushner. It was also just weeks before King Salman stripped MBN of the Crown Prince title and gave it instead to MBS.
What has not been reported is that, during this time period, MBN told people he believed that Kushner and MBS had formed an “alliance” of some sort that involved getting rid of him. MBN reportedly felt he needed to act preemptively and wanted to make sure he retained top U.S. government support in the event he staged a coup d’état to usurp both King Salman, whom he believed was mentally incompetent, and MBS, whom he thought was dangerous.
According to someone with knowledge of MBN’s thinking, “He basically wanted the U.S. to tell the Saudis that if they fucked with him, they’d be fucking with all the U.S.-Saudi bilateral agreements.”
MBN knew he had the backing of the U.S. intelligence community, who loved him. In 2017, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo had even awarded him a medal for saving American lives. But MBN also believed that Kushner and MBS were working against him. He even told people that he figured there was some sort of financial arrangement between Kushner and MBS that would eventually be revealed, if their plan was to work.
MBN’s alleged palace coup effort was stymied, however, before it ever began. King Salman and MBS allegedly learned of what was afoot—my sources believe from Kushner or people close to him—at warp speed. “The Kushner machine went into action,” a source told me. And the U.S. did nothing to help MBN when he was deposed and replaced by MBS a month later.
Subsequently, on March 6, 2020, MBN was arrested and charged with treason (which he denied) and has not been heard from since. He has literally been “disappeared.” Meanwhile, his chief aide, Saad bin Khalid Aljabri, fled to Canada.
According to Bruce Riedel, the treatment of a senior royal like this is unprecedented, even in Saudi Arabia: “There’s been reports with pretty gruesome details of knives and torture [about MBN]. All of this is just not the Saudi Arabia that existed for the last hundred years, I can't think of a single case of a royal prince being arrested and put in jail, not one. Maybe there are one or two junior princesses who got in trouble over drugs or something who were put in rehab. But the notion that a member of the royal family—who let alone is a former crown prince—would be put in prison and basically vanish from the face of the earth is… That's not how the royal family operates.”
Nor is what allegedly happened normally how the U.S. government works. Which might go some way toward explaining why senior intelligence officials prevented Kushner from getting a top security clearance.
Unlike Mohammed bin Salman, Mohammed bin Nayef was a huge intelligence asset to the U.S. He was viewed as a moderate—someone the U.S. “deep state” wanted to work with as the ruler of Saudi Arabia.
“He gave us the flight plan and the code for bombs that were being sent by commercial industries into the United States,” Riedel told me. “Intelligence never gets more actionable than that. I mean: the flight number that the bomb is coming on. That's about as good as it gets.”
Further, bin Nayef was well-liked within the council of ministers, unlike MBS, and he was a moderate.
“Saudi Arabia was never a nice place. It was never a democracy, but it was not a repressive police state like this. And, certainly, members of the royal family were never ever imprisoned, nor were senior people in the business world. I mean, that just didn't happen,” says Riedel referring to the round-ups by MBS of business people, members of the royal family, and former government ministers in 2017 in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. “If King Salman dies, I think it’s questionable if MBS is the automatic successor. I think he literally would be prepared to use force to compel them [the council of princes]. But there are going to be some who are going to say, No, he's a poor choice. He's misrun the government. He got us involved endless war in Yemen that cost a fortune and ended up with the Iranians winning. He's shaken down members of the royal family at the hotel. I think there's a lot more animosity against MBS than is often portrayed. And he becomes much more vulnerable once daddy's no longer political cover for him. And the person he's most vulnerable to is Mohammed bin Nayef.”
Given, this you’d think that the Biden administration would be moving heaven and earth to help MBN. Riedel says that, as far as he knows, CIA director Bill Burns is trying. But, according to Riedel, whatever is going on in back-channels is not enough.
“It’s extraordinary that MBN has basically been forgotten by those countries who he worked with and whose citizens he saved, including Americans,” says Riedel. “I can understand that there might be a logic initially to trying to work this quietly behind the scenes, but it's April—it's been more than a year since the Biden administration came in. And working behind the scenes has not worked to get Mohammed bin Nayef out.”
I’ve previously reported there’s currently a frenzied back channel between the Biden administration and the Saudis because of the rising price of oil due to the war in Ukraine. This comes after months of a big chill emanating from the Biden White House to Saudi Arabia. So, the news of the Kushner investment and the bad odor it gives off could scarcely come at a less politically expedient moment.
Riedel says that people often ask him why Biden doesn’t put the past behind when it becomes to Saudi Arabia.
“My answer is [that] the Washington Post won’t let him,” Riedel says. (The Post is where Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident who was murdered by a team working for Mohammed bin Salman was employed.) “The Washington Post is not going to let Joe Biden get away with this. In fact, they have an editorial that they just posted about Kushner. It doesn't talk about Mohammed bin Nayef, but it says it's pretty obvious that Kushner is getting paid off for something.”
What a party! What a country! This is when morons vote in a moron.