Why is Intel Community Targeting Kushner?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

US intelligence agencies are gunning for Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and have leaked charges to the Washington Post that officials in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, China, and Mexico have privately strategized how to use him as a pawn in their power plays with Washington.

Despite denials by his office, the charge against Kushner is clearly being led in some part by National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, who apparently was frozen out of Kushner’s diplomatic activities for months and only recently received a commitment that the National Security Council would be read into his meetings with foreign dignitaries.

While the charge that Kushner is at least naive and very possibly corrupt is entirely plausible, we should also be suspicious of the leaks. (And remember, Ed Snowden was villified by the same people for his leaks, but they think it is all right when they do it).

The most troubling aspect of the WaPo story is that Kushner himself was not being accused of doing anything wrong by the intel sources. The central reveal was that the Emiratis, Israelis, Chinese and Mexicans think he is a useful idiot because a) he is inexperienced in the ways of the world and almost terminally gullible and b) because he has a nearly $2 billion balloon note coming due on 666 Fifth Avenue* and hasn’t been able to refinance, and so has been going around hat in hand to Gulf, Chinese, (Israeli?) and other investors.

But that foreign officials have had such conversations is not surprising and Kushner could not control them. Why are they a black mark on him in and of themselves? And is Kushner really thought more naive or corrupt than Trump himself? Why the selective leaks?

How do US intel officials know about these discussions within the halls of the Israel and UAE prime ministers’ offices and the presidential palaces of Mexico and China? They are eavesdropping on the foreign leaders with exactly the tools Ed Snowden told us about, which are apparently more often used for economic espionage than busting terrorism, as in this case. And the most troubling aspect of the US “total information awareness” doctrine of spying on everyone all the time is that US citizens are inevitably caught up in it, in an assault on the Fourth Amendment.

So look, Kushner probably has played a sinister role in some Trump foreign policy fiascos. It is alleged that he was cultivated by UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba as an ally in the assault on little Qatar, after Qatar pulled out of a finance deal regarding 666 Fifth Avenue. If so, that truly is criminal, and, as Talleyrand said of Napoleon, even worse than a crime, it was a mistake. The Trump stance on the June 5 blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE likely destroyed the Gulf Cooperation Council that had grouped Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar since the early 1980s, and the destruction of the GCC is a great gift to Iran. If Kushner played a role in that, he helped destroy the security architecture of the Gulf and gave Iran a leg up in the Middle East. But of course the impetus for all that came from Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and UAE mover and shaker Muhammad Bin Zayed; Kushner was just a way to get to Trump and to get Trump to tweet approval of the propaganda against Qatar.

Kushner has also been criticized for appearing to imply that his company, in which he still has a minority stake, could smooth the way to visas for Chinese investors in the US.

It would be interesting to hear more about alleged quid pro quos for Kushner et al. with regard to moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which will knee-cap US diplomacy in the Muslim world for decades to come. The main impetus for that piece of stupidity, however, appears to have come from sketchy casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

But these issues are already well known and have been reported on. The intel leaks clearly are intended to get Kushner out of the White House, and they aren’t actually charging him with anything, only saying that people out there are talking about him.

Michael Wolff’s potboiler Fire and Fury depicted Kushner as essentially a liberal Democrat inside the Trump circle.

What we really should be asking is what McMaster and NSA director Mike Rodgers want to do that Kushner is standing in the way of.


Bonus video:

CBS News: “Jared Kushner security clearance downgraded”


An earlier version of this article misidentified the property as 666 Park Avenue, since the author probably wouldn’t be allowed on the premises of either one and so is writing about alien territory.

26 Responses

  1. Seeing as the “deep state” for want of a better description, has admitted quite openly that they tapped into and listened the German chancellor’s (Angela Merkel) phone conversations, surely, it comes as no surprise that they spy on people nearer home. Lets face it, the whole point of the intelligence agencies is to pry into other people’s affairs, and nothing and no one is immune to this scourge.

  2. Your seventh paragraph, from “So look, Kushner probably has played a sinister role in some Trump foreign policy fiascos … ” all the way to ” Kushner was just a way to get to Trump and to get Trump to tweet approval of the propaganda against Qatar” is a classic for our current times. Thank you so very much.

    Thanks also for your perspective on the intelligence community.

    I think there’s got be an “X” number, of the percentage of the society hired to be spying on all the other members of society, that leads to the social breakdown of the spying government/society. Yet of course on our current path, global warming breakdowns and the wars and disasters of dictatorial regimes will finish us off long before we can study that equation.

  3. Jarred and Ivanka, the Kim and Barbie of international politics. They almost seem like characters from a reality television show. Gen. Kelly reportedly said of Ivanka and her role in policy making….”She’s playing government.”

    At my age and past experience, for better or worse, give me bald guys like McMaster and Kelly running things rather than Ivanka and Hope Hicks and their bouncy ‘Breck Girl” long flowing curls. Add to this Trump’s popsicle stand middle east negotiator and son in law Jarred, an Orthodox Jew (I wonder which side Jarred in on in the Israeli Palestinian peace process?) being manipulated by Netanyahu.

  4. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, given that a number of such dubious trustees had their clearances downgraded to a mere “secret.” But your observations of The Boy v. The IC stand.

    I’d guess they are simply more worried about him than the rest, for all the reasons mentioned. And Kelly and the other generals take all this stuff dead serious, other values aside.

    I’d also say that “corruptible” doesn’t begin to fully describe the threat Kushner et al present to the nation. Again, values aside, and many in the IC may well feel the same way.

  5. ¿”His company-minority stake” OR “a company”? Reads like you’re compounding the error.

    K. is a foreign asset because of his w.h. presence – he’s vulnerable to extortion. So is potus.

    Now change the headline.

  6. It is also worth noting that there is little evidence to suggest that Jared Kushner is the “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team” who lobbied the UN Security Council members regarding a resolution on our about December 22, 2016, regarding illegal Israeli settlements (see link to justice.gov U.S. v. Michael T. Flynn “Statement of the Offence”). Who knows who might be guilty of such activity?

  7. Kushner is rotten to the core! as rotten as the person occupying the WH!

  8. McMaster better be careful if he wants that fourth star.Trump has too much faux face to lose if Kushner get excessively tarnished. The tweets will tell.

  9. Oh, please spare us from what sounds like a defense of Kushner. Just because you don’t like the people you assume are his accusers (and he seems to have little support outside of Trump and Ivanka), that doesn’t mean the charges are without merit. This is the same guy who met with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak to try and set up a back channel communication with the Kremlin. That alone should disqualify him from having anything to do with government, especially foreign policy. And a minority owner of the company? The company is basically him and his father, who, you may have forgotten, has already spent time in prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. Kushner only has his job because he’s married to Ivanka; he is totally unqualified as well as being a walking influence and blackmail target.

    • I completely agree. Whatever it takes to get Kushner out of the White House, and especially foreign policy, I’m all for it.

  10. Thanks for this post. Here is my response that I included on my post of it.
    “Interesting thoughts here. Although the implication is to look beyond Kushner to the so-called “deep state,” in my opinion there is no master book that the “deep state” is relying on. Especially now that previous foreign and military policy has been somewhat upended by the chaos of the Trump administration. The “book’ may be “written” for periods of time, but there is no exception for the US. We are impacted daily by events, movements, individuals, groups, beyond “our control.” So while in a state of constant struggle and change in so many instances you have to analyze and deal with what’s in front of you. To often the outcome and the next moves won’t be revealed until you turn the corner, or confront a challenge, or take a piece off the board, so to speak. Kushner is a corrupt criminal grifter who is now in over his head. He is trying to make money by playing with our collective futures, and is apparently being gamed by more experienced players. Like his family was totally gamed by the experienced and ruthless Russian oligarchs. I really don’t care that he is being “targeted.” He needs to be in jail and out of the game. None of these people represent our real interests. We do have to stay aware of what they are doing.

    • Just because this is a convenient place to post, not aimed specifically at you, but I wish people would stop using this term deep state, which has been coined by the alt-right to foster their paranoid fear of government. What they call the deep state is the bureaucracy, which as the great sociologist Max Weber maintained, is one of man’s greatest inventions. Like any large organization, there are factions and different interests. In fact, the founders did not want a unitary government, but one that was filled with checks and balances so as to reduce the chances of tyranny. The bureaucracy, for whatever its failings, serves as an important check on possible tyrants. And, unlike officials in the current administration, civil servants not only take an oath to the Constitution, they take that oath seriously and the vast majority put their national service way above any interest in party. And I agree with you about Kushner. Today it has come out that he met with an investment banker talking about a possible job in the administration and lo and behold, not long thereafter the organization that banker worked for extended $184 million in loans to the Kushner company which is having cash flow problems.

      • Thanks for this, Mr. Page! Let’s further call it the “professional bureaucracy” to emphasize that these are people who know their jobs, understand their responsibilities, believe in following the law, and are in it to serve the public. (Yes, I know there will always be a few exceptions.)

        One of the right wing’s highly successful tactics is to rebrand good things in evocative and insulting ways. Here we have “deep state.” Before that, “family re-unification” became “chain immigration.” We’ve endured the “estate tax” as “death tax” for far too long. It’s time to push back.

      • Deep state are the people who:

        • spend huge amounts of our money on weapons program
        • spy on all of us at our own expense
        • have compromised the privacy of every person on planet earth, by building backdoors into every phone and most computers
        • started half a dozen wars over the last fifteen years, resulting in millions of deaths

        The bureaucracy is a tool of the deep state. Some of those in deep state are within the bureaucracy. Some are in the political parties. Many are in the armed forces (you may argue that the armed forces are the bureaucracy but it seems a separate category to me). Some are within the private military contractors.

        The deep state are the ones who subverted the last election to try to get Hillary Clinton elected (railroading Bernie Sanders after leaving Donald Trump on the path as the primary winner and what Clinton and co. though was the surest defeat among Republican candidates). The deep state are the people who are pushing to start a nuclear conflict with Russia. The deep state are the people who would rather spend your money on wars than on clean drinking water, safe bridges and better education.

        The deep state are not your friends or good ole boys or progressive heroes. The deep state are servants of empire who take the productive work of good men and women and turn it to tools of evil and oppression.

  11. The enemy of my enemy is also my enemy. This is how my fellow travelers on the Left should view the National Security Apparatus. Today it’s Kushner; tomorrow it could be Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, et. al….

  12. If he’s the one most likely to sell out his country, then he’s also the one most likely to turn state’s evidence on his collaborators. I want them all to turn on each other. That’s good strategy for prosecutors.

  13. In a way, we should be grateful for such inept and corrupt rulers. There are so many signs this empire is winding down. Just focusing on the obvious, we have an intellectually incapacitated leader surrounded by transparently corrupt neophytes randomly imported from his family and former TV show. Trump’s child/lizard-like mind, along with the inter-dimensional chess game of the various power factions emerging from the, “Deep,” shadows into the open reminds me vaguely of aspects of the Austrian, Prussian, and British empires.

    In the past, you’d occasionally get an emperor plagued by developmental disabilities, behavioral disorders, or neurological complications from venereal disease. This rotten core can become the nexus of decay. Surrounded by greedy regents and ministers who hold conflicting agendas, the lack of a central vision leads to fiscal calamities, trade disputes, open conflict among bureaucratic power bases, and disastrous military decisions. Anyway, the good news is that those periods often led to really radical change. I wish Kushner was vice president.

    Still, entertaining as it is, Kushner’s dénouement will be pretty well eclipsed by WWIII.

  14. Would love to know the details but I also wish the media and the political class would focus on the question of nepotism in the Trump White House. How on earth does Trump award Jared with a portfolio of high-profile assignments when his only requirement is that he’s married to Ivanka. And can someone explain why Ivanka represents the US here and abroad? Or (apparently) influences the president’s policies? I loved Bobby Kennedy but JFK’s decision appointing him as AG was clearly nepotism. One might argue that at least he was prepared for the job. But I thought we had learned the lesson and moved on. If you’re the POTUS, it’s simply unwise to put family members into high-profile political positions.

    Then again, this is Trump. And he treats the WH as his own personal reality show. The rest of us – well, we’re just along for the ride.

  15. First of all there is no justification at all for Kushner to be in the role he is in without the proper clearance level. That is a slap in the face to the Intel community. There is nothing normal about the Trump presidency. Family members given prominent roles in the white house seems a lot like something despotic nations do. The Intel community has every right to be alarmed and should remove him if Trump won’t. It is not news that nations spy on each other, someone who is probably as naive as Kushner is and has mountains of debt is prime for being “flipped” and therefore monitored by the Intel community.

  16. So this guy is a corrupt capitalist beholden to his financiers and wittingly and unwittingly working for influence peddlers and third countries?
    He is also bankrupt and got where he is because of his father and benefits from nepotism.


    who does this guy remind me of?

    He should be very popular and loved for all of this by whoever it is this person reminds me of.

  17. If a guy close to the President asks a foreign country for $500 million, they decline, and he then sets about punishing them by prodding that country’s neighbors to blockade, if not invade, what should American public servants who learn about it actually do?

    Do nothing, because otherwise they are “deep state” actors “targeting” him?

    Kushner seems very likely to have bent the full power of the entire American state to punish a whole country for not giving him a huge sum of money. The FBI should be considered to be “targeting” for looking into it?

    Your expressions of suspicion against the only institution that might actually be able to reign in this sort of astonishing crime amount to impotence in the face of outright evil.

    Attacking the institutions that pursue crime instead of the criminal could cost the United States its democracy.

  18. This article, along with others of Juan Cole, is posted on Commondreams. I posted this response on the Commondreams website, and am sorry to only now be giving the article the credit I think it due on “home site.”

    I think that this piece is Juan Cole at his best, most insightful, and most important.

    And I think that none of the factual allegations in the responses made with the intent of showing Cole’s error, if all such allegations are correct, makes an argument against Cole’s point. The fundamental importance of asking the questions Cole raises is not addressed by, let alone refuted by, any of those allegations.

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