Allegation that Jared Kushner punished Qatar for not investing in real estate deal resurfaces in Mueller probe
Qatari officials have evidence of “illicit influence” by the United Arab Emirates on U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, ABC News reported Monday.
However, the report added that the UAE has decided not to give the information to special counsel Robert Mueller.
The bombshell allegation comes on the heels of a March NBC report claiming federal investigators are looking into whether Kushner‘s business talks with foreigners, as Trump assumed the U.S. presidency, later influenced White House policy.
Mueller asked witnesses about Kushner’s attempts to secure financing for his family’s real estate ventures, focusing specifically on his talks with people from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the UAE, NBC News said.
In the latest report, NBC said that according to new sources, Qatar has damaging information about a December 2016 meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and Trump officials at Trump Tower – including Kushner, then-incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and then-incoming chief strategist Steve Bannon.
NBC cited unnamed sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation, as well as witnesses who have been interviewed by Mueller’s team. The special counsel is looking at Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign.
Kushner’s family-run real estate company unsuccessfully tried to seek financing from Qatar’s investment fund for its deeply troubled New York City property a month before Kushner backed a blockade on the Gulf kingdom, the Intercept reported on Friday. The same allegation surfaced during the summer of 2017, but has returned to the fore as Kushner is dogged by allegations he abused his White House role for personal gain.
A spokesman for Mueller’s office, Peter Carr, declined to comment on the report.
A spokesman for Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell said the report was the “mischief” of unnamed sources conducting a “misinformation campaign” to mislead the news media.
“Mr. Kushner’s role in the campaign and transition was to be a point person for completely appropriate contacts from foreign officials, and he did not mix his or his former company’s business in those contacts,” the spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said in a statement. “Any claim otherwise is false.”
Russia has denied interfering in the election, and Trump has said there was no collusion.
Federal investigators have reached out to Turkish nationals for information on Kushner through the FBI’s legal attache office in Ankara, NBC News said.
Qatari government officials who visited the United States earlier this year considered turning over information to Mueller that they believed demonstrated their Gulf neighbor was coordinating with Kushner to hurt Qatar, NBC News said, citing four people familiar with the matter.
The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, the individuals told NBC News.
The Qatari embassy in Washington rejected the assertions, saying in a statement late Friday that its government “has not been approached, nor has it had any contact with the Special Counsel’s Office on any matters.”
Kushner’s family business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar several times, including last spring, about investing in its troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, but Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund declined, NBC News said, citing two sources familiar with the discussions.
Mueller’s team also expressed interest in a meeting Kushner held at Trump Tower in December 2016 with former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani, people familiar with the meeting told NBC News.
The Kushner Companies’ Fifth Avenue property is facing some $1.4 billion in debt that is due in 2019, NBC News cited the sources as saying. Talks with Qatari officials about investing continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, they said.
After the collapse of talks between Qatar and Kushner Companies, the White House strongly backed a blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which accused Qatar of backing terrorism. Kushner has played a major role in the U.S.’ Middle East policy.
The Washington Post reported a few weeks ago that officials from the UAE, China, Israel and Mexico talked privately about ways to manipulate Kushner using his business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience. The Post report quoted unnamed U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the issue.
Kushner has lost his access to top-secret U.S. intelligence information in recent weeks because of his inability to obtain security clearance at that level.