Kushner/MBS Bromance Moves to Center Stage in Khashoggi Story

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit shoul... US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 11, 2018 9:37 a.m.

The most notable article in the last 12 hours is this one in Politico about the Jamal Khashoggi story. It contains clues and signs that the White House is trying to sweep the story under the rug or give the Saudis enough time and room to come up with at least a somewhat plausible cover story: an accident, rogue factions in the security services, etc. But the key part for me was more detail on those calls we discussed yesterday between Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed (MBS).

According to Politico, the chain of events went like this. (Remember, two years in the U.S. still has no Ambassador in Saudi Arabia.) Early this week the top official in the Embassy (Christopher Henzel) spoke to MBS and asked him directly about Khashoggi’s fate. MBS denied any wrongdoing but immediately demanded a call with Kushner and Bolton. It’s not immediately clear from the Politico piece whether he wanted to talk to just Kushner or both men. It ended up being the latter.

As we’ve noted, Kushner and MBS have a very close relationship, one that has extended to numerous calls and meetings out of earshot of U.S. officials. (Did Bolton insist on joining the call given that history?) As the Politico piece notes, the same former Trump administration official who confirmed MBS’s demand for the call said his “insistence on talking directly to the White House indicates he is hoping to leverage his close ties with Kushner and others in Trump’s inner circle to avoid repercussions.”

That certainly sounds right.

We still know very little about the business relationship between MBS and the Trump family. In a situation like this, those would be very helpful to know.

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