Saudi Prince MBS’ $2 Billion Loan to Trump Son-in-Law Jared Kushner Raises Doubts about Risk and Legitimacy
By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Jared Kushner became the beneficiary of a cool $2 billion from the Saudi Arabia government, compliments of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is alleged that this gift was provided because Kushner had aided MBS in replacing MBS’ cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef as successor to the throne. Here, we follow a complicated path of mystery and intrigue in revealing international politics at its highest level.
Mohammed bin Sultan (MBS) overrules Saudi Investment Fund overseers in approving a loan to Kushner
Even before Saudi Investment Fund officials conceded a loan of $2 billion to the son-in-law and former senior advisor to ex-president Trump, they were filled with doubt. They questioned the feasibility of the loan on its merits, given its lender’s inexperience and lack of a robust financial track record. The timeframe of the loan was also awkward, in that it was only six months after Trump had lost the election to Biden, setting off an alarm about former government officials violating the U.S. one-year-since-time-in-office conflict of interest rule.
The Saudi Investment Fund is normally a professionally managed body that reviews proposed borrowers carefully as any good bank would do. According to a New York Times story about the loan to Kushner, “A panel that screens investments for the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund cited concerns about the proposed deal with Mr. Kushner’s newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, previously undisclosed documents show.”
The panel judged that Kushner’s investment fund lacked management experience. It concluded that the Kingdom held too much investment risk potential for most of the loans. It noted specifically, “the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management, the bulk of the investment and risk, due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them unsatisfactory in all aspects, a proposed asset management fee that seems excessive, and public relations risks.”
Most bankers would be cringing with this financial assessment. But, not to be deterred, the personal and private relationship with the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, MBS, and Kushner outranked officialdom. MBS took over the chairmanship of the Fund and thereby overruled the normally rational, professional investment assessment capability of the official management team.
The bottom line may be that, as Kushner served ex-president Trump, he purposely established a personal relationship, perhaps a friendship, with the Saudi Crown Prince. Through that, the Prince indicated that he wanted closer links between Israel and Arab Gulf State leaders. Considering Kushner’s modern Orthodox Jewish background, this relationship was natural, linking rich Arab countries with the capitalist spirit of Israel. From that emerged the so-called Abraham Accords, which opened diplomatic relations between Israel and other Arab monarchies.
While this story is bigger, more nuanced, and detailed than we have time to present here, we do need to point out that, while most Arab countries avoided recognition of Israel because of its occupation of the Palestinians, under these new accords, money seemed to outweigh any interest in defending the Palestinians. This was the cynical ploy of the Trump administration, which also resulted in the sweetheart deal between the Prince and Kushner.
Nothing less than a conflict of interest, Kushner’s deal with Saudi Arabia borders on corruption
In no uncertain terms, some sources criticized Kushner’s deal with Saudi Arabia as corrupt. According to an opinion piece on MSNBC, “A newly revealed multibillion deal between Saudi Arabia and Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former senior adviser, Jared Kushner, shows that the scale of apparent corruption and brazen misuse of power during the Trump White House was even more audacious than we previously thought.”
MSNBC followed the New York Times story but took it further in castigating the Saudi-Kushner relationship. MSNBC averred that “…it’s blisteringly clear from the details that while MBS’s expenditure did not make financial sense, it made political sense as payback for favorable treatment.”
MSNBC stated that the Trump-Saudi relationship “…vividly illustrates how the Trump era was marked by particularly naked forms of self-enriching power plays, signaling to the world that American diplomacy was on sale to the highest bidder. And it sets a shameful precedent that our government has inadequate safeguards to protect against in the future.”
“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” MBS’ loan to Kushner involved plenty of intrigue
In a speculative opinion in Vicky Ward Investigates, investigative reporter Ward suggests that the “real” reason Kushner was given the loan was linked to a foreign policy matter. She reports, “the money was possibly both an IOU for sympathetic foreign policy led by Kushner during the Trump years and also a bet by MBS on a return to the White House by Kushner’s father-in-law, Donald Trump.”
Now, it seems, Kushner’s personal relationship with Crown Prince MBS may have been at the root of the CIA’s denial of a top-secret clearance for the ex-president’s son-in-law. Ward’s story goes that it was Kushner and his allies in government who blocked top-level U.S. government support of the then Crown Prince, a cousin of MBS. Former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was purportedly a “long-time intelligence and counter-terrorism asset for the U.S.” Bin Nayef had attempted a legal coup in 2017 in an endeavor at regime change.
Such a coup would have ousted both King Salman and then-deputy crown prince MBS. Ward’s sources told her, “it was Kushner and his allies in the White House who got word to MBS of bin Nayef’s plans, and the plot was abruptly stopped.” Kushner’s presumed role in thwarting this coup is what drove U.S. intelligence officials “to go apoplectic,” thus initially preventing him from getting his top-level clearance.
The theory is, then, that the sizeable loan to Kushner by MBS was a “payoff” for moving bin Nayef out of the picture. Bin Nayef is under house arrest and hasn’t been seen in public for three years. The ousted prince did manage to communicate that he believed MBS had arranged a partnership, presumably with Kushner, to oust him from his place as the successor to King Salman. The U.S. apparently did not act on bin Nayef’s communication, allowing MBS to depose and replace him one month later.
If we’re lucky, we may subsequently witness the outcome of the loan to Kushner and how it will in fact be repaid.
“Before Giving Billions to Jared Kushner, Saudi Investment Fund Had Big Doubts,” New York Times, 4/10/2022
“Jared Kushner’s deal with Saudi Arabia sure looks corrupt,” MSNBC Opinion, 4/12/20
“EXCLUSIVE: The *Real* Reason Jared Kushner was Given $2 Billion to Invest by MBS,” Vicky Ward Investigates, 4/15/2022
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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