On Monday, I published excerpts including text messages from legal documents that supported my previous reporting about the relationship forged between Jared Kushner and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MBS. The messages showed that, in the spring of 2017, MBS and Kushner discussed how MBS—then only the deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia—did not have the support of three US intelligence agencies (the CIA, the FBI and the NSA) to dislodge his cousin, then-current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a long-time counterterrorist asset and ally of U.S. intelligence who had even been awarded a medal for saving American lives.
I reported how sources told me Kushner played a role in helping MBS ultimately dislodge MBN in June 2017 and how MBN was aware of their plans (which he believed were formed early in the Trump administration) to oust him. At the time, MBN warned confidants (who spoke with me on the condition of anonymity) that, should they succeed, he suspected money would change hands (between MBS and Kushner) and there would be evidence of it ultimately.
This month, it was reported by the New York Times that Kushner recently received an investment of $2 billion from the PIF, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, at the behest of MBS, who overrode advisors who had been leery because of Kushner’s lack of investing track record.
(A spokesperson for Affinity, Kushner’s investment fund, told the NYT, “Affinity, like many other top investment firms, is proud to have PIF and other leading organizations that have careful screening criteria, as investors.”)
Jared Kushner watches alongside a member of the Saudi delegation during a meeting between Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
The excerpts I published are from the complaint of Saad Aljabri, MBN’s right-hand aide, who is suing MBS and his alleged henchmen for attempted murder (“ongoing attempted extrajudicial killing,” as the document says), including activities carried out on American soil.
In his complaint, Aljabri alleges that MBN was aware by the spring of 2017 that MBS and Kushner were talking about the succession issue. At the time, MBS indicated it was a problem that he didn’t have the U.S. intelligence agencies on his side, even though his visit to the White House in March 2017 had gone well and he appeared to have support of Trump and, reportedly, especially of Kushner, with whom he stayed in close touch.
John Brennan, former CIA director under Barack Obama, confirmed to me yesterday, “MBN was viewed by the U.S. intelligence community at large as a very strong partner and counterterrorism force and an upstanding and respected individual. And so I have no doubt that, into 2017, views of MBN [by the CIA and other intelligence agencies] had not changed. But there was a change at the senior levels of the U.S. government during the Trump [administration].”
In May of 2017, in an effort to counteract MBS’s courting of Kushner and Trump, documents show that MBN ultimately hired the then-little-known Trump-friendly lobbyist Robert Stryk for a very large sum: $5.4 million for one year.
Aljabri was heavily involved in these negotiations, according to two people with knowledge. Aljabri had also reportedly had tight relations with U.S. intelligence officials including former CIA directors John Brennan, George Tenet, and Michael Morrell. Brennan told me that his last meeting with Aljabri had been in 2015. “Saad was a regular contact of mine,” Brennan told me. “I met him frequently when I traveled to Saudi Arabia and even outside of Saudi Arabia. And so I had the utmost confidence in him.”
But in 2017, Aljabri would be forced into exile in a foreshadowing of the coup d’état that brought about MBN’s deposition and replacement by MBS—all apparently with the support of the Trump White House, which somehow silenced MBN’s U.S. intelligence supporters—or rendered them ineffective.
“I am unknowing of any of these issues related to Jared Kushner because I wasn’t in government in the time,” Brennan said. “Mike Pompeo was the director of the CIA at the time.”
What follows here are court papers filed in Canada last fall on behalf of Aljabri. They contain Arabic text message translated into English that show the series of events leading to MBN’s downfall—and the U.S.’s critical influence in it—in 2017.
The texts are from Aljabri to Abdulaziz al-Huwairini, then the head of Saudi state security. On May 16, 2017, Aljabri shows al-Huwairini the statement filed by Stryck in Washington D.C., announcing his new representation of Mohammed bin Nayef and stressing the importance of MBN’s brave role in fighting counterterrorism and as a moderator against extremists.
But the text messages show that the next day, on May 17, Aljabri forwarded al-Huwairini an article in Politico, reported by Ken Vogel and Theodoric Meyer and headlined “Trump drawn into Saudi Game of Thrones,” in which Vogel and Meyer reported on the power struggle between MBS and MBN and said that the Stryck contract was MBN’s “move to position himself with Trump’s administration.”
The texts show that Aljabri knew that this would not go over well in the Saudi royal court. “The article is written very maliciously and requires a careful read. It may startle some of our friends/allies,” he wrote.
That day, according to two sources and reports, Aljabri left Saudi Arabia for Turkey, having been warned by MBN and al-Huwairini that he needed to get out immediately because MBS was allegedly furious that MBN appeared to be exercising a power play against him in Washington. There was genuine fear that MBN could yet win this battle because of his support in the U.S. intelligence community.
The court record then jumps ahead to text messages dated May 31. But, on May 20, Trump made his first State visit: to Saudi Arabia. Kushner and his wife Ivanka reportedly had dinner with MBS one night.
On May 31, the text messages show that Aljabri was concerned about Khalid Al-Ghannam, the Saudi official who had signed the Stryck agreement on behalf of MBN.
Here’s that exchange with between Aljabri and al-Huwairini:
Aljabri: Did Kahlid get rid of them?
Aljabri: Is he still there?
al-Huwairini: Yes he still is.
Aljabri: Does the manager know?
This passage, according to someone with knowledge, is a reference to the fact that Al-Ghannam had been locked up by MBS for two weeks. The “manager,” according to someone with knowledge, is MBN.
And then on June 2:
Aljabri: Has Khalid returned yet?
Very curiously, there follows in the message thread a photograph of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), with MBN. The two men appear to be leaning in and shaking hands warmly. But MBZ and MBN famously did not get along, and it was MBZ who had long advocated to senior officials in the Trump White House for MBS, his mentee, to become Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Records show that on June 2, MBZ did indeed visit Saudi Arabia. This would be after the Trump officials had gone and three days before the Saudis and Emiratis announced a blockade of their rival, Qatar, which houses the U.S. airbase Al Udeid.
I reported in my 2019 book Kushner, Inc. that neither Secretary of State Rex Tillerson nor Secretary of Defense James Mattis had any idea that the blockade was coming and heard that someone in the White House had given the Saudis a green light. That person was thought to be Kushner, not Trump—who, as I reported in Kushner, Inc., told people he had no idea the U.S. had an airbase in Qatar. (The Qataris had also very recently turned down a request by Charles Kushner, Kushner’s father, to pay off a $1.4 billion loan he had on 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.)
On June 4, the text messages in the Aljabri legal papers indicate Khalid Al-Ghannam has finally been released.
Aljabri then writes, “Do I complete fasting in the cold?”
According to someone with first-hand knowledge, this means “Should I stay in Turkey for the month in Ramadan?”
The answer “sure” means “Do not come back to Saudi Arabia.”
And Aljabri never did.
(In September that year, he left Turkey for Canada, where MBS later sent a hit squad to attempt to kill him. A lawsuit about this is ongoing.)
On June 21, while Aljabri was still in Turkey, MBN was deposed by MBS. MBN disappeared for hours before swearing allegiance to MBS.
The Americans, who for so long had expressed such admiration and gratitude for MBN and only months earlier given him a medal, appeared to put up no protest.
Then, in March 2020, MBN disappeared. So too did two of Aljabri’s teenage children. I reported on Monday how texts between MBS and Aljabri showed MBS saying he’d release the children to Canada if Aljabri returned to talk about MBN.
What happened next? And what was Kushner’s involvement?
That’s what comes in my next newsletter…