When Jared Kushner didn't get his way, a diplomatic crisis ensued.
After the Qatari government turned down a solicitation for investment by Jared Kushner’s family, Trump helped spearhead a regional crisis in which numerous Middle Eastern countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed all air, land, and sea borders.
According to the Intercept, Kushner’s family real estate business tried and failed to secure an investment from the Qatari government just a month before Kushner put his weight behind a blockade of the country.
The report is one of the clearest indications yet that Kushner may have used his role as a government official to take part in private business dealings — and then, apparently, to retaliate against a country when the deal didn’t work out.
The Intercept reports that Charles Kushner — Jared’s father — met with Qatar’s Finance Minister in New York in April 2017, hoping to secure financing from the Qatari government for the Kushner Companies’ troubled 666 Fifth Ave. property.
The luxury New York City property, which Kushner Companies purchased in 2007, has been losing money for years, leaving the Kushner family with a $1.4 billion debt that will come due in 2019. The family has previously pursued financing for the property from other foreign investors, including a and an insurance group in China.
Ultimately, no deal came of the April 2017 meeting — but that’s not where the story ends.
“The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors,” the Intercept reported. “Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.”
At the time, Trump took credit for the blockade of Qatar, which took place on the heels of his May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia. But Trump may have had some help in that effort. According to news reports at the time, Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake story that ended up fueling the diplomatic crisis.
While we don’t know for sure if Trump’s decision to urge the Middle Eastern countries to cut ties with Qatar was motivated by Kushner not getting what he wanted, the timing of the incident raises serious questions — serious enough that special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into them.
NBC News reported Friday afternoon that Mueller’s team of investigators is “scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with.”
According to NBC, Mueller is looking at “Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar” and several other countries, including Russia, Turkey, and China.
This adds to the ongoing controversy surrounding Kushner’s conflicts of interests, which have taken center stage in recent days.
On Tuesday, Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded amid reports that foreign officials had discussed how they could use Kushner’s financial history and lack of experience to manipulate him. Congressional investigators say Kushner is a national security risk, and several members of congress have issued calls this week to remove Kushner from the White House.
“Jared Kushner is a liability to [Donald Trump], and a known national security risk,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted Friday afternoon. “If he truly cares about his father-in-law, and our nation, he would step aside.”
It may not be up to Kushner, though: If Mueller gets to him first, his removal from the White House might not be voluntary.