White House senior adviser Jared Kushner stands among Saudi officials as President Donald Trump talks with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, brokered a $2 billion deal for his private equity firm with the Saudi crown prince last summer, according to a bombshell New York Times report.
The deal, which was finalized six months after Trump left the White House, reportedly came despite serious misgivings within Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle.
Kushner reportedly secured the massive cash injection for his Affinity Partners, a private equity firm established months after his tenure as a White House advisor. Kushner’s deal reportedly culminates multiple meetings between him and various Saudi leaders, with whom he developed relationships during his time in office.
Back in November, the Times reported Kushner was looking to raise money from numerous countries along the Persian Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The ex-Trump official was apparently rebuffed by both the UAE and Qatar, leading him to seek financing from Saudi Arabia’s chief sovereign wealth fund.
Kushner, who has run businesses in both real estate and media, has no apparent experience in private equity. And during the deal-making process, the former Trump advisor reportedly made numerous unconventional requests with the Saudi government, causing trepidation with the fund’s screening committee.
According to the Times, the committee’s members – which span current and former heads of Saudi Aramco, Dow Chemical, the Saudi Central Bank, and Saudi Industrial Development Fund – all voted against proceeding with the deal. Members of the panel cited both Kushner’s lack of experience in private equity as well as his exorbitant asset management fees. But for reasons that remain unclear, the crown prince unilaterally overruled the committee.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
According to SEC filings made last month, Affinity Partners manages roughly $2.5 billion in assets, meaning that the Saudi investment comprises the vast majority of the firm’s wealth.
Numerous ethics experts have come forward to criticize the deal, suggesting that Kushner may have used his position as a White House advisor to plant seeds for a deal that would be struck after leaving office.
Robert Weissman, president of the nonprofit group Public Citizen, told the Times that Kushner’s relationship with the Saudis is “extremely troubling.”
Kushner’s posture toward the Saudi government, he said, “makes the business partnership appear even more to be both a reward to, and an investment in, Kushner.”
Government ethics expert Walter Shaub echoed similar concerns, tweeting, “Makes you wonder if Jared did something with his official authority for MBS before leaving government to earn that investment.”