Jared Kushner .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK - The US security establishment is reportedly concerned that senior White House adviser and son-in-law to the president of the United States, Jared Kushner, may be the subject of a Chinese influence campaign due to his personal business interests.
Those worries were revealed this week after The New Yorker reported that the 37-year-old has repeatedly held private meetings with Chinese government officials since the outset of the Trump administration.
The crux of the concerns center on Kushner’s numerous encounters with Chinese Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, with some meetings being accompanied by disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Cui and Kushner have also met alone on at least one occasion, according to The New Yorker,
which intelligence officers say is a flagrant breach of security protocols.
The US usually conducts high-level talks with foreign governments in large groups, with experts on the American side present to ensure its interests are not manipulated or undermined.
But Kushner’s alleged eschewing of the diplomatic procedures have “made some people in the US government uncomfortable,” leading experts to believe that Beijing could be using the political neophyte to influence American policy.
“He went in utterly unflanked by anyone who could find Beijing on a map,” one security official told the Manhattan-based magazine. “It was a dream come true. They couldn’t believe he was so compliant.”
Those concerns were first raised following a private meetings Kushner held with Cui last year at Donald Trump’s sprawling Florida estate Mar-a-Lago, where he reportedly discussed his own business interests along with policy.
That’s when intelligence officials “became concerned that the Chinese government was seeking to use business inducements to influence Kushner’s views.” It’s unclear what was said between Kushner and the Chinese envoy, with one former official briefed on the matter describing the talks as “inconclusive.”
In response, a Kushner spokesperson told The New Yorker
that there “was never a time — never — that Mr. Kushner spoke to any foreign officials, in the campaign, transition, and in the administration, about any personal or family business. He was scrupulous in this regard.”
Security officials note, however, that the president’s son-in-law owes hundreds of millions of dollars on a 41-story Manhattan office building his company purchased in 2007.
Over the past two years, Kushner has sought financial backing overseas - courting firms in South Korea, Israel and France - all to no avail as a substantial mortgage payment looms just months away.
Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal
reported that Kushner was also warned by security officials to be careful when speaking to family friend Wendi Deng Murdoch, who they suspect has ties to the communist government in Beijing.
Murdoch, the former wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is a powerful Chinese-American business woman who has been close friends with Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, for years.
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 (3.1 miles) 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
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.”