On Monday, the White House rejected a request from House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings asking for information about the security clearance of Jared Kushner. White House counsel Pat Cipollone replied that “the decision to grant or deny a security clearance is a discretionary function that belongs exclusively to the Executive Branch” and dismissed the idea that the executive had to show any cause for why Kushner was given clearance, or discuss whether there had been objections.
That Donald Trump overrode the recommendations of security experts to hand an open pass to his son-in-law is a scandal. That Kushner lied repeatedly on his security forms is a crime. But there are bigger crimes connected to this decision.
- Did Jared Kushner, either in person on one of his visits to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or through one of his regular phone calls, or by other means, provide to the Saudi leader the names of any of those dissidents or opposition leaders removed from power, imprisoned, or executed during Mohammed bin Salman’s assumption of power and “purge” of the Saudi government in 2017?
- Was the name of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi one of those that Kushner passed to his “friend” the prince?
On October 2, 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain documentation for his upcoming wedding. Once through the door, Khashoggi was captured, beaten, tortured, dismembered, and then killed. The team of over a dozen special forces sent to capture and kill the journalist included one man carrying a bone saw, which was used, and one man sent to wear Khashoggi’s clothes around town after the murder in hopes of confusing security cameras. There’s no doubt that the torture, the dismemberment, and the murder were exactly what was intended. There’s also no doubt that it was all done at the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
What isn’t clear is exactly what degree of responsibility Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner bears in the torture and death. But there are good reasons to think the answer is a long way from “none.”
Kusher has visited Mohammed bin Salman at least three times. He accompanied Trump on his first foreign trip in May 2017. That trip was followed within a month by a “soft coup” in which the lines of succession in Saudi Arabia were changed to install Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. In October 2017, Kushner made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia and stayed at Mohammed bin Salman’s home. Two weeks later, the Saudi leader conducted a “purge” of objectors and dissidents that solidified his control. That purge included imprisoning Saudi officials who had been critical of Trump. Kushner also dropped in on Mohammed bin Salman in February 2017, but this visit was after the murder of Khashoggi. Between these visits, Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman have kept up a series of phone calls and text messages, calling each other by their first names and talking about topics that include U.S. foreign policy.
At the time of his first two visits, Kushner had a temporary security clearance that had been issued over objections while he worked his way through multiple versions of his security form. Despite that status, Kushner regularly reviewed top-secret information, and is reported to have viewed a list of Saudis suspected of opposing Mohammed bin Salman
Following the murder of U.S. resident Khashoggi, Kushner had some advice for his friend the Saudi prince. Kushner told his friend that “the outrage over Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible killing will pass, just as it did after other Saudi errors like the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon and the killing of a busload of children in Yemen by a Saudi airstrike.”
As horrific as that advice is on its own, the larger question should be: What did Kushner tell Mohammed bin Salman before the murder of Khashoggi? And how many other names did he provide that have already faded from the headlines? Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and a journalist for a major paper, and still Kushner was sure it would blow over. What does that say about anyone else he gave up?