What Exactly Were Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin Up to in the Middle East?
Former White House ethics czar Richard Painter on new reporting about Kushner and Mnuchin's trips after the November election: “This should have been investigated since Day One.”
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The last time I spoke with former White House ethics czar Richard Painter, we talked about the repercussions of former government officials making money, shortly after leaving office, from the people with whom they'd been doing government business. We were talking particularly about Jared Kushner because, as we know, many people who advised the Saudi Public Investment Fund didn't want to give $2 billion to Jared Kushner because he doesn't have a track record in investing. Steve Mnuchin, on the other hand, does. (Mnuchin’s firm, Liberty Strategic Capital, got $1 billion from the same Saudi fund.)
Painter pointed out that timing was critical in establishing whether anything illegal had actually happened. He said that, yes, the optics were bad that former government officials who had been dealing with those countries then left office and turned around and make a profit from those same countries. But, Painter said, unless there were evidence that a quid pro quo had gone on while they were in office, it would be very hard to prove that they did anything illegal.
Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin at the Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C. on July 19, 2017. [BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
I reached out to Painter today following the latest reporting from the New York Times, which puts both Kushner and Mnuchin negotiating in the Gulf after the election (there, so they say, on behalf of the outgoing Trump administration). These visits raise important questions about what exactly was being discussed in those meetings in the last months of the Trump administration: Was it purely about government business or was it personal?
I spoke to Painter about the pieces of this story that played out in plain sight and why we’ve yet to see a full investigation—by the DOJ, Congress, or the Inspector General of the Treasury—to find out what Kushner and Mnuchin were really up to in the Middle East. Listen to our whole interview above.
What do you think about why this hasn’t been investigated? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
[NOTE: Mr. Painter’s opinions are his own and do not represent the views of Ms. Ward.]