Kushner defends business dealings with Saudis, says not seeking White House role if Trump wins

FILE - Jared Kushner listens as former US president Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, November 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
FILE - Jared Kushner listens as former US president Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, November 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

NEW YORK  — Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s former White House adviser and his son-in-law, defendes his business dealings after leaving government with the Saudi crown prince who was implicated in the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Kushner worked on a wide range of issues and policies in the Trump administration, including Middle East peace efforts, and developed a relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has overseen social and economic reforms and a far-reaching crackdown on dissent in the kingdom.

After Kushner left the White House, he started a private equity firm that received a reported $2 billion investment from the sovereign wealth fund controlled by Prince Mohammed, drawing scrutiny from Democrats.

Kushner, speaking at a summit in Miami sponsored by media company Axios, says he followed every law and ethics rule. He dismisses the idea of there being any concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest in his business deal.

“If you ask me about the work that that we did in the White House, for my critics, what I say is point to a single decision we made that wasn’t in the interest of America,” Kushner says.

He says the sovereign wealth fund, which has significant stakes in companies such as Uber, Nintendo and Microsoft, is one of the most prestigious investors in the world.

He also defends Prince Mohammed when asked if he believes US intelligence reports that the prince approved the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist. The prince has denied any involvement.

“Are we really still doing this?” Kushner at first says when he was asked if he believes the conclusions from US intelligence.

Kushner says he has not seen the intelligence report released in 2021 that concluded the crown prince likely approved Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

“I know the person who I dealt with. I think he’s a visionary leader. I think what he’s done in that region is transformational,” Kushner says.

He stands by the Trump administration’s policies and calls it “one of the greatest compliments” that US President Joe Biden backed away from his initial stance to shun Saudis for human rights violations to instead work with the crown prince on issues like oil production and security in the region.

“I understand why people, you know, are upset about that,” Kushner says of Khashoggi’s killing. “I think that what happened there was absolutely horrific. But again, our job was to represent America, and to try to push forward things in America.”

Kushner also says he is not interested in rejoining the White House if Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, saying he was focused on his investment business and his living with his family in Florida out of the public eye.

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