March 8, 2019
During meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and King Salman in Saudi Arabia on February 26, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner followed the same game plan used by his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, during the Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last July: What Americans don’t know can’t hurt you.
President Trump famously allowed no U.S. aides in the room when he talked to Putin, did not allow the translator to take notes, and would not release a transcript following the summit meeting.
Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court in late February, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip, The Daily Beast reported, noting that his lack of transparency is causing concern not only in the embassy, but also among members of Congress.
“The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told the news outlet; noting that the U.S. Embassy was not involved.
Lawmakers told the news outlet they were concerned that the embassy in Riyadh did not have knowledge of what was discussed between Kushner, MBS and King Salman—in light of the increasingly fragile relationship between the two countries following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Lawmakers are particularly interested in understanding the back and forth between the United States and Saudi Arabia regarding a potential nuclear deal, The Daily beast reported. Indeed, the website reported last week that the Trump administration is still actively working to make a deal to send U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and that American energy businesses are still hoping to cash in on Riyadh’s push for energy diversification.
The only facts released to date on Kushner’s travels are that he stopped in Saudi Arabia and, while there, he met with the royal family to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.
The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh, The Daily Beast said.
When a member of the administration travels to another country, the embassy often helps coordinate the trip and provides some kind of security. This time, though, the Saudi government provided security for Kushner and his entourage, sources told The Daily Beast And the embassy was largely left in the dark on the details of Kushner’s schedule and his conversations with Saudi officials, according to two individuals with knowledge of the trip to the country.
The State Department referred The Daily Beast to the White House for comment. “This reporting is not true and the sources are misinformed,” a senior administration official told the news outlet, adding that the embassy in Riyadh was involved in Kushner’s visit and meetings.
Research contact: Erin.Banco@thedailybeast.com