White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was warned by U.S. counterintelligence officials in 2017 that the ex-wife of Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, Wendi Deng Murdoch, could be using her friendship with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to further the Chinese government’s interests, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal reported last year that the “warning was part of an effort by national-security officials to highlight to Mr. Kushner, who was new to government, the need to be careful in his dealings with people whose interests may not align with those of the U.S.,” according to people familiar with the interaction.
A representative for Kushner and Trump told the Journal at the time that the conversation with counterintelligence officials was “routine senior staff security briefing.”
Indeed, such conversations with incoming administration officials are common and may or may not involve specific individuals with whom the officials are acquainted.
But Ms. Murdoch reportedly was on the radar of counterintelligence officials prior to Kushner’s arrival at the White House.
According to the Journal, “U.S. officials have also had concerns about a counterintelligence assessment that Ms. Murdoch was lobbying for a high-profile construction project funded by the Chinese government in Washington, D.C.”
Though a ground-breaking ceremony took place for the garden in October 2016, after former President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached an agreement on the project, no construction has taken place to date.
Counterintelligence officials reportedly were concerned with a planned “70-foot-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance.”
A spokesperson for Ms. Murdoch told the Journal last year that she “has no knowledge of any FBI concerns or other intelligence agency concerns relating to her or her associations,” also adding that she “has absolutely no knowledge of any garden projects funded by the Chinese government.”
Ms. Murdoch also came to the attention of U.S. counterintelligence officials while she was still married to Rupert Murdoch, after British security officials approached their American counterparts with concerns over her alleged romantic relationship with former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
A source familiar with the matter told the Journal that “the Federal Bureau of Investigation said there was reason to be watchful about Ms. Murdoch, but that they hadn’t looked into her in detail.”
Kushner and Trump’s friendship with both Mudochs, who married in 1999 and divorced in 2013, has been ongoing for years.
The Journal noted that Trump “posted a photo on Instagram of her travels in Croatia with Ms. Murdoch in 2016” and “Ms. Murdoch posted a photo of Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner at Mr. Kushner’s birthday party in 2016.”
Ms. Murdoch was also photographed visiting Kushner and Trump’s home in Washington in 2017.