White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has an affinity for Middle East foreign policy, and prior to losing his interim top secret security clearance, the president's son-in-law had access to sensitive information on the area via the president's daily brief.
During that time, Kushner struck up a relationship with Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is reported to have told UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that he has Kushner "in his pocket".
In late October, Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, catching some intelligence officials off guard. “The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,” the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported at the time.
What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so.
Coincidentally, a week after their meeting, the Saudi crown prince initiated an 'anti-corruption' crackdown, which saw numerous members of the Saudi royal family imprisoned.
The Intercept reports that it is unlikely Prince Mohammed bin Salman would have needed Kushner's help in determining those who were disloyal to him, but it also would serve him well to paint the picture that Kushner was supportive of the prince's actions.
One of the people MBS [the Saudi prince is referenced by his initials in Washington] told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his pocket,” the source told The Intercept.
The inexperienced Kushner has caused concern among some Washington officials, chiefly that one of Trump's top advisers could be easily influenced or taken advantage of by foreign leaders.
And according to The Washington Post, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy,” with Tillerson once showing his frustration by asking staffers, “Who is the secretary of state here?”