The disappearance and likely death of Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi has renewed interest in reports earlier this year that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner might have passed an “enemies list” of sorts to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during an unannounced trip to Riyadh in late 2017.
In March, The Intercept reported that Kushner and the crown prince spent several days together, during a time when President Trump’s son-in-law still had access to the President’s Daily Briefing.
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, and at least one tortured.
The Intercept noted 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.
Trump followed up by defending the crackdown on Twitter, writing, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.”
And to date, Trump has offered a decidedly reserved response to the Khashoggi disappearance, which further communicates the administration’s indifference toward Saudi Arabia’s behavior.