Saudis Give Jared Kusher $2 Billion

The real crime is what's legal.

The headline of a story fronting today’s

Six months after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal.

A panel that screens investments for the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund cited concerns about the proposed deal with Mr. Kushner’s newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, previously undisclosed documents show.

Those objections included: “the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management”; the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for “the bulk of the investment and risk”; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them “unsatisfactory in all aspects”; a proposed asset management fee that “seems excessive”; and “public relations risks” from Mr. Kushner’s prior role as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald J. Trump, according to minutes of the panel’s meeting last June 30.

But days later the full board of the $620 billion Public Investment Fund — led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and a beneficiary of Mr. Kushner’s support when he worked as a White House adviser — overruled the panel.

Ethics experts say that such a deal creates the appearance of potential payback for Mr. Kushner’s actions in the White House — or of a bid for future favor if Mr. Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024.

I mean, sure, if you’re a suspicious type.

Mr. Kushner played a leading role inside the Trump administration defending Crown Prince Mohammed after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that he had approved the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post and resident of Virginia who had criticized the kingdom’s rulers.

I mean, that’s worth $2 billion all by itself.

The Saudi fund agreed to invest twice as much and on more generous terms with Mr. Kushner than it did at about the same time with former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — who was also starting a new fund — even though Mr. Mnuchin had a record as a successful investor before entering government, the documents show. The amount of the investment in his firm, Liberty Strategic Capital — $1 billion — has not been previously disclosed.

I’m not wild about Mnuchin having a fund, either, but that’s rather par for the course after leaving certain cabinet posts. Indeed:

No law or rules constrain the investment activities of former administration officials after leaving the White House; many from both parties have profited from connections and experiences gained in government.

But Robert Weissman, president of the nonprofit group Public Citizen, called Mr. Kushner’s relationship with the Saudis “extremely troubling,” arguing that his stance toward the kingdom’s leadership as a senior adviser “makes the business partnership appear even more to be both a reward to, and an investment in, Kushner.”

Saudi officials say that the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, which also holds stakes in the ride-sharing company Uber and the Newcastle United Football Club in Britain, operates autonomously, with an elaborate governance structure that includes the investment panel. But Prince Mohammed took control of the fund when he rose to power in 2015 and he is its paramount decision maker.

Mr. Kushner, whose fund has not publicly disclosed a theme or focus, has little experience or track record in private equity. Before working in the White House, he ran his family’s commercial real estate empire, sometimes with disappointing results. His best-known deal was the $1.8 billion purchase of the office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, in 2007; the building’s mortgage became a crippling liability when the recession hit the next year.

Diplomats, investors and ethics experts noted during the Trump administration that his anticipated return to the family business injected a potential conflict of interest into Mr. Kushner’s relationship with Prince Mohammed and other oil-wealthy Arab royals. Many are major long-term investors in American real estate, and the Kushner family had courted them before.

Again, the fact that so many leave high government offices and then immediately turn around and cash in on their connections and influence is deeply troubling. It is, however, not unique to the Trump administration or Kushner.

The fact that Trump is the odds-on favorite to be the Republican nominee for a third straight time naturally makes the situation more problematic. Then again, it’s not like Kushner, like Trump himself, didn’t blatantly intermingle the public business and his own private business interests while in the White House.

There is no momentum for making any of this illegal. Indeed, we can’t get Congress to ban its members from trading in individual stocks while in office.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    But, but, his laptop!

    5
  2. DK says:

    Okay, but did he have a laptop though?

    1
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Jared Kushner to Hunter Biden and his supposed *$250 million payout from the Ukrainian govt*:

    “Hold mah beer. Watch this!”

    ** the latest number I have seen bandied about certain corners of the internets, not be taken serious

    1
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    No law or rules constrain the investment activities of former administration officials after leaving the White House;

    Duh! No laws or rules have ever constrained the trump family. They just do whatever the F they want.

    Oh wait a minute, that’s not what they are saying.

    3
  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    George Conway
    @gtconway3d

    Let’s be fair, Ian — you and your colleagues had the luxury of being able to focus on ethics rules because your boss wasn’t plotting a coup.

    Ian Bassin
    @ianbassin
    · Apr 9
    On Obama’s first trip to Saudi Arabia, staffers found suitcases of jewels waiting for them in their rooms. As the WH ethics lawyer, I got frantic calls from staff asking what to do w them to be sure not to violate gift rules.

    The Trumps are just crooks. https://nytimes.com/2022/04/08/us/politics/trump-foreign-gifts.html?referringSource=articleShare

    Same with you, Richard. Don’t be all high and mighty just because 43 wasn’t occupying staffers’ time by fomenting a violent insurrection.

    Richard W. Painter
    @RWPUSA
    · Apr 9
    On the way out the door Trump’s entire White House staff flipped the middle finger at a federal statute and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. We have no idea what foreign payoffs they got and from whom.

    1
  6. Scott says:

    Wrote this on the other thread by mistake. To be fair, the dogs were hassling me for their morning walk.

    I’m sure it has already happened but I’m waiting for the inevitable response: “The MSM is talking about this just to distract from Hunter and Joe Biden’s corruption.”

    2
  7. senyordave says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: When Trump’s people went the frantic calls probably were “This is it? How do I negotiate a better deal?”

  8. Kathy says:

    Is it a bribe or buying influence if they’d have done it for free?

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I’ll bet you $20 that Kushner also gave Khashoggi to MBS.

    4
  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @senyordave: No doubt.

  11. CSK says:

    I know Kushner is Jewish, but he always reminds me of the head Nazi torturer in WWII movies. It’s that slight, enigmatic smile he constantly wears. It’s the smile of a sadist.

  12. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Sure… $2B might be shocking… but maybe not illegal.

    OTOH… Jared and Ivanka making $600 Million while in office… that really is worth a look.
    https://www.citizensforethics.org/reports-investigations/crew-investigations/jared-and-ivanka-made-up-to-640-million-in-the-white-house/

    Yeah, but her emails and his laptop, amirite?

    Trump actually won… so exhausted from his lies, nothing seems to matter anymore.

    1
  13. Just nutha says:

    The dollar amount is startling. In scale, it’s less than I gave to homeless shelters from a gross of $33k last year. IOW, just another day ending in…

  14. Scott F. says:

    @Just nutha:

    Those objections included: “the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management”; the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for “the bulk of the investment and risk”; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them “unsatisfactory in all aspects”; a proposed asset management fee that “seems excessive”; and “public relations risks” from Mr. Kushner’s prior role as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald J. Trump, according to minutes of the panel’s meeting last June 30.

    Your return on investment with the homeless shelters is almost assuredly going to be greater than what the Saudi’s will get with Jared. Like his father-in-law, has Kushner ever been successful with a venture that did anything but monetize his name?

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Oh I agree, it’s not an “investment,” but the fund could have given him the money and disguised it as accounting error without anyone noticing. From that point of view, I sort of wonder why they didn’t disguise the donation.

  16. Scott F. says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    From that point of view, I sort of wonder why they didn’t disguise the donation.

    The Saudis are establishing price points for other corruptibles – e.g. cabinet secretaries are worth $1B, inner family circle is worth twice that – in order to encourage supply of people willing to sell out their country in the interest of the Kingdom.

    3
  17. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Hunter Biden’s laptop will be remembered about as well as Billy Beer after about 20 years.

    OTOH…

    The death of an Ex-POTUS son-in-law — that may be news we remember.

    All I’m saying here: Giving $2Billion to a willful idiot that has no private equity experience, at the beginning of an economic downturn… you have to ask — Just how big a loss will the Saudis tolerate until they go all Khashoggi on him?

    If it’s a true investment, my guess is half.

    If it is in fact a way to grease palms, then all of it. And then he still dies of mysterious causes just to make sure that he stays quiet.

    Dead android vampire robot walking.

    Ivanka will prolly be tired of him by then, anyways.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: For those of us who are Whovians, doesn’t Jared remind one of Son of Mine? He’s got the same pasty skin, the same stare, and the same smirk at the corner of the mouth.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    All I’m saying here: Giving $2Billion to a willful idiot that has no private equity experience, at the beginning of an economic downturn…

    Which is, most assuredly, the argument against the payment being an “investment.” New question: What did Jared do that would have been worth $2 billion to the Saudis? Any speculations?

    1
  20. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: “For those of us who are Whovians, doesn’t Jared remind one of Son of Mine? ”

    Wow. I’ve seen every episode (well, starting with the 2005 reboot) and I must have seen this as well, but I have absolutely no memory of it. Something to watch!