By Maitefa Angaza
White House Senior Advisor (and Donald Trump son-in-law) Jared Kushner never stopped communicating with – and has resumed spending time with – young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This, in the aftermath of the horrendous murder of Jamal Khasoggi, a dissident Saudi native and a columnist for the Washington Post. What’s now been brought to light via his own statements, however, is that despite the official White House position on the killing, Kushner is going along with the U.S. Special Intelligence assessment that the murder of Khashoggi was ordered by bin Salman.
“Look, I’m not going to dispute American intelligence services’ recommendations,” said Kushner at a TIME Magazine 100 event on Tuesday. “I’m also not going to talk about anything intelligence-related. Calling Khashoggi’s murder “a terrible thing” Kushner said he had advised bin Salman to be “as transparent as possible and that obviously we have to make sure there’s accountability for what happened.”
Khashoggi was captured on videotape in Istanbul on October 2nd of last year entering the Saudi consulate there. He had arrived to get papers needed for his wedding to his bride-to-be, Hatice Cengis, a doctoral student there. A team described as “special forces,” including one man carrying a bone saw, tortured and dismembered Khashoggi before killing him. They then had a man leave the consulate wearing his clothes to have that image on security cameras and throw local authorities off the scent.
“Our love and our dreams of a new life together brought him from Washington to Istanbul, to get the required documents for our marriage,” said Cengis in a piece she wrote for the New York Times on what would have been her beloved’s birthday. “The hope of spending the rest of our lives together happily motivated Jamal to walk into the Saudi consulate building on that fateful afternoon.”
In February, for the first time since Khashoggi’s murder, Kushner met with bin Salman in Riyadh in a closed-door meeting in the Saudi capital city. According to a White House statement no mention of Khashoggi was made during the meeting. Neither were the two said to have talked about the genocidal war in Yemen, led by the Saudis and backed by the United States. Instead, “increasing cooperation” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia was said to have been the objective of the meeting.
Kushner was granted a security clearance by the Trump Administration, overriding the decision made by top-level security personnel responsible for issuing them. Reasons for the denial were Kushner’s murky business dealings and the fact that he lied in several places on the clearance application, having to repeatedly submit it.
This week Congressman Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said he’ll hold a vote as to whether or not to hold Carl Kline, former White House Personnel Security Director in contempt for failing to appear after being subpoenaed to a deposition about security clearances. This, after Cummings’ request to the White House for information about how Kushner’s clearance was granted, was rebuffed. His request was met with a reply from White House counsel Pat Cipollone, stating the matter was “a discretionary function that belongs exclusively to the Executive Branch.”
Having visited bin Salman previously, Kushner is said to have stayed at his home a few weeks after Khashoggi’s murder. But it appears he may now feel the need to distance himself from the official White House stance, which professes skepticism over bin Salman’s involvement. After all, even staunch Republicans condemned the killing.
“I think he’s [bin Salman] complicit to the highest level possible,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham last fall. “There’s not a smoking gun. There’s a smoking saw.”