Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday “if it’s true” that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner swayed U.S. foreign policy against Qatar for personal financial reasons, he “has to go.”
“If it’s true, it’s damning. If it’s true, Jared Kushner has to go,” Murphy, a prominent voice on foreign policy, said of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
The Intercept reported on Friday that representatives of Kushner Companies, including Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, met with Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi in New York in April in a bid to secure Qatari financing for the firm’s distressed signature property, 666 5th Avenue.
There was a follow-up meeting between Kushner Companies representatives and Qatari officials the following day. But a deal never materialized.
Then, in early June, a coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. They proceeded to blockade the small, natural gas-rich nation, ostensibly in retaliation for Qatar’s support of islamist movements abroad and cordial relationship with Iran. The blockade remains in effect.
Trump surprised many in the diplomatic community by initially backing the Saudis and Emiratis so whole-heartedly. Qatar, a longtime American partner, is home to a key strategic base for the U.S. military in the Middle East where thousands of troops are deployed.
“We could not understand why the Trump administration was so firmly taking the Saudis’ side in this dispute between the Saudis, the Emiratis and Qatar, because the United States has very important interests in Qatar,” Murphy said Sunday.
Murphy noted the large U.S. troop presence in Qatar.
“To so firmly take the side of the Saudis against the Qataris that could potentially result in the downward spiral of the Qatari economy put thousands of Americans at risk,” he said.
Jared Kushner’s friendship with UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman raised suspicion at the time he had encouraged Trump to take a hard line against Qatar.
News of the Kushner family’s attempts to gain Qatari financing for a family-owned property raises the prospect that Kushner advised the president to side with the Saudis and Emiratis for personal financial reasons.
If verified, that should be grounds for Kushner’s ouster, Murphy said.
“If the reason this administration put U.S. troops at risk in Qatar was to protect the Kushners’ financial interests, then that’s all the evidence you need to make some big changes in the White House,” he said.
NBC News reported Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Kushner’s business discussions with foreign powers during the presidential transition, well before his father’s April 2017 meeting, later influenced American foreign policy. In addition to Qatari representatives, Kushner met with figures from Turkey, Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to the report.
The potentially damaging revelations about Kushner surfaced during an already punishing week for the Trump relative and confidant. Kushner, who had enjoyed a temporary top-secret security clearance, saw his clearance downgraded by the White House to merely “secret.”
Although the justification for the downgrade was not immediately clear, experts note that it was unusual for someone to have a temporary clearance for so long without receiving permanent access. The White House’s decision not to grant him a permanent security clearance likely sprang from intelligence agencies’ concerns that foreign governments have tried to influence him and that he initially failed to report his meetings with officials from those governments.
Also speaking on “This Week,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a onetime Trump transition team chief, implied that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump (who’s also a White House adviser), should consider stepping down from their posts for the good of the president. (As a United States attorney, Christie sent Kushner’s father to prison, which likely chilled his relationship with Jared.)
Asked by Stephanopoulos whether Trump should fire Kushner, Christie responded, “The president’s going to have to make that judgment.”
He went on to suggest that Kushner and Ivanka might do well to spare Trump the difficulty of spurning family members by volunteering their resignations.
“The situation is made much worse by the fact that we have family members in the White House,” he said. “So for Jared and for Ivanka and for all the other members of the family who were involved in one way or the other, I think everybody’s got to focus on what’s best for the president.”