The Big, Big Money

Before we delve deeper into the details I just want to point your attention to this article in the Times magazine. Through the Trump administration it was clear for all to see that Jared Kushner and Saudi de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS) had developed a corrupt relationship which was both defining U.S.-Saudi relations and laying the groundwork for saving and then expanding Kushner’s (and wife Ivanka Trump’s) personal fortune. Now we learn that six months after he left the White House, a sovereign wealth fund controlled by MBS made a $2 billion investment in Kushner’s brand new private equity firm, Affinity Partners — this despite the fact that the panel that screens these investments for the Saudi sovereign wealth funds advised against the investment for reasons ranging from it being a bad investment, excess risk, Kushner’s firm being poorly run and inexperienced, not to mention the obvious “public relations risks.”

This is possibly the largest and most brazen instance of public corruption I’ve seen in twenty five years covering American politics as a journalist. And this is saying something since, as you know, public corruption has always been one of my greatest interests and consistent beats. We knew a relationship like this was building through the Trump administration. Trump’s son-in-law, callow and hungry, had taken over administration Middle East policy, in the expectations of the big money pay offs the Saudis especially but not only them could provide to the Trump-Kushner family. And here we are with what is certainly just one example of the pay off. We knew it was coming but the sheer scale of it, the sheer openness of it, is bracing to see.

You would think that Jamal Khashoggi deserves at least a plaque somewhere at Affinity Partners since he is probably more personally responsible for securing this $2 billion than anyone.

But it’s not just the big money payoff to the tune of over $2 billion. The relationship continues. There’s little question that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, now totally controlled by MBS, continues to work on behalf of the Trump/Kushner family and against the Biden administration. Certainly that is not their only aim. But it is a key one that advances numerous interests. The Saudis biggest goal is to get the U.S. to support its war in Yemen and their broader confrontation with Iran. This is what the Trump administration accommodated and the Obama and Biden administrations have generally resisted. The unwillingness of the Saudis and their Gulf allies to raise oil production and thus take some of the pressure off oil prices is also part of this equation. It helps put the squeeze on the Biden administration. (The Saudis have said explicitly and pretty openly, why should we help them on oil prices when the U.S. isn’t helping fight the war in Yemen?) Yes, it’s complicated. The Kushner corruption is only one part of this multi-player relationship. But the continuing political power of the Trumps over the GOP and their possible return to the White House is the critical factor.

Much more to come here.

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