White House senior adviser Jared Kushner delivers remarks on the Trump administration's approach to the Middle East region at the Saban Forum in Washington, US, December 3, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN)
NEW YORK – Senior White House adviser and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, was reportedly warned by security officials that a close family friend might try to him influence on behalf of the Chinese government, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Shortly after stepping into his administration position, US officials approached Kushner about Wendi Deng Murdoch, the former wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and advised him to exercise caution when speaking with her.
Murdoch, a powerful Chinese- American businesswoman, is reportedly close friends with Ivanka Trump, the US president’s daughter.
Security officials were reportedly concerned that Deng would use her contacts in the administration to further a construction project in Washington funded by the Chinese government, an anonymous source told the Journal.
The high-profile project is a proposed plan to build a Chinese garden less than 5 kilometers from both the Capitol and the White House.
The garden, estimated to cost $100 million, was reportedly designated a national security risk because the design included plans for a tall tower that could be used for surveillance.
A spokesman for Deng told The Guardian newspaper that Deng “has no knowledge of any FBI concerns or other intelligence agency concerns relating to her or her associations.”
He added: “[Deng] has absolutely no knowledge of any garden projects funded by the Chinese government.”
A Kushner representative described the early 2017 meeting with US officials as a “routine senior staff security briefing.”
He said Kushner “has complied with all ethics and disclosure recommendations and has played a helpful role in strengthening the US-China relationship so as to help bring about a better resolution to the many issues the countries have.”
A Chinese Embassy official in Washington later dismissed Tuesday’s Journal
report as “full of groundless speculations.”The Wall Street Journal
is published by a division of News Corp., which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Michael Wolff, author of the recently published Fire and Fury – a tome detailing the first year of the Trump presidency – wrote on Twitter after the Journal
article was printed that Murdoch had been claiming his ex-wife was a Chinese spy to “anybody who would listen” since their divorce in June 2013.
A former Wall Street Journal
managing editor, however, defended Deng on social media, expressing doubts about the report.
“Count me deeply skeptical,” Marcus Brauchli posted on Twitter. “US counter-intelligence has slurred people before with flimsy suspicions, especially those people with ties to China (e.g. ethnic Chinese). I’d warrant Trump does more for Russia than Wendi ever did for China.”