Jared Kushner is one of the most - if not the most - elusive member of President Trump's inner circle. Since the president's inauguration, he has spoken publicly to reporters only a handful of times. And as the fallout from the Saudi state-sponsored murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continued to widen, Kushner sat for an interview with CNN's Van Jones where he downplayed the role of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, with whom Kushner reportedly shares a "special relationship" (the prince reportedly once bragged about having Kushner "in his pocket") and defended the administration's "cautious approach" toward the investigation into what exactly led a team of 15 Saudi nationals to torture and butcher Khashoggi during an Oct. 2 visit to the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
In excerpts from the interview released by CNN, Jones asked Kushner whether it is wise to trust MbS to oversee Saudi Arabia's investigation, given that he's also the prime suspect. Kushner, who, in the absence of a US ambassador to KSA, has been handling the kingdom's relationship with the Trump administration directly via his friendship with MbS, said the US will examine facts from "multiple places."
CNN's Van Jones: “Do you trust the Saudis to investigate themselves?”— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 22, 2018
Jared Kushner: “We’re getting facts in from multiple places. Once those facts come in, the Secretary of State will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe” #CITIZENCNN pic.twitter.com/JW8MDkHl3J
Jones: Do you trust the Saudis to investigate themselves?
Kushner: We’re getting facts in from multiple places. Once those facts come in, the Secretary of State will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe, and what we think is credible, and what we think is not credible.
Jones: Do you see anything that seems deceptive.
Kushner: I see things that seem deceptive every day I see them in the Middle East and in Washington. We have our eyes wide open. The president is looking out for America's strategic interests...the president is fully committed to doing that."
Given their close relationship, media reports have implied that Kushner has been acting as an unofficial liaison of sorts to MbS since the crisis began (it has also been reported that the Crown Prince initially didn't understand why the backlash to Khashoggi's murder had been so intense). In light of this, Jones asked Kushner what advice, if any, he has given the Saudi royal during their conversations (to be sure, MbS has also spoken with President Trump directly on the phone).
Jones: “What kind of advice have you given (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) in this whole situation?”— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 22, 2018
Kushner: “Just to be transparent. To be fully transparent. The world is watching” #CITIZENCNN pic.twitter.com/wHJNQ8dez5
Jones: What kind of advice did you give MbS?
Kushner: Just to be transparent. To be fully transparent. The world is watching. This is a very, very serious accusation.
Jones: How did he respond to that?
Kushner: We'll see.
In a story published over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that Trump has privately expressed doubts about MbS's story, and has also lamented his close ties with Kushner, fearing they could be a liability. But during a phone interview, the president was somewhat more sanguine, pointing out that both Kushner and MbS are relatively young for the amount of power they wield.
"They’re two young guys. Jared doesn’t know him well or anything. They are just two young people. They are the same age. They like each other, I believe," Trump said.
Kushner's interview followed reports published Sunday night that MbS tried to convince Khashoggi to return to Riyadh during a brief phone call with the journalist after he had been detained at the Saudi consulate Khashoggi refused, reportedly because he feared that he would be killed, and was subsequently killed anyway. Adding another macabre twist to the saga of Khashoggi's murder and dismemberment, Surveillance footage released Monday showed one of the Saudi operatives leaving the consulate wearing Khashoggi's clothes with the suspected intent of serving as a "decoy" to bolster the kingdom's claims that Khashoggi had left after receiving his papers. It was later reported that Turkish investigators had found an abandoned car that once belonged to the Saudi consulate.
We imagine we'll be hearing more about these strange developments on Tuesday, when Turkish President Erdogan is expected to deliver a report on the killings.