White House senior adviser Jared Kushner raised concerns among administration officials by communicating with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on private channels, including through the messaging service WhatsApp, CNN reported Wednesday.
Kushner’s relationship with the Saudi leader reportedly raised concerns among national security staffers early on in his role, but has come under increased scrutiny as U.S. officials monitor the findings of an investigation into the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Once concerns were raised about Kushner’s close ties to bin Salman, Kushner reportedly told others within Trump’s team about his conversations with the crown prince, according to CNN.
CNN reported that Kushner, who is also President Trump‘s son-in-law, has worked “behind-the-scenes” to stay out of the spotlight and help handle the diplomatic fallout in the wake of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
A White House spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that Kushner “has always meticulously followed protocols and collaborated with colleagues regarding the relationship with (bin Salman) and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts.”
Reports have indicated that Kushner and bin Salman have developed a close relationship. The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser met with the crown prince most recently in June to discuss the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan.
Kushner spoke with bin Salman last week over the phone to ask for more information about Khashoggi’s disappearance. National security adviser John Bolton was also on the call.
The crown prince’s “reformer” image has come under fresh scrutiny following Khashoggi’s disappearance. Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders from Saudi leadership. Khashoggi has been missing since Oct. 2 when he entered the consulate in Turkey.
Saudi Arabia has said it does not know what happened to Khashoggi, and the country is conducting a joint investigation into his disappearance with Turkish officials.
President Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. has requested audio and video from Turkey related to Khashoggi’s disappearance. The president again denied that he is providing cover to Saudi Arabia in connection with the Khashoggi case.
BY BRETT SAMUELS – 10/17/18