US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s real-estate empire has been accused of courting funds from the Qatari government for a debt-ridden project and supporting a regional trade war after Doha refused to invest.
A real-estate company headed by Kushner’s father sought a cash injection from the Qatari government in the weeks before Middle East countries rallied together to impose a blockade on Qatar, the Intercept reported on Friday.
Charles Kushner met with Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi at a New York hotel in April 2017, in an attempt to secure funding for Kushners’ ailing signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York, according to the Intercept, citing two anonymous sources.
Following unsuccessful efforts to refinance the struggling assets, the White House supported a blockade of Qatar, with Trump saying Doha “has historically been a founder of terrorism at a very high level”.
A Kushner Company spokesperson Chris Taylor denied that any financial overtures were made to the Gulf country:
To be clear, we did not meet with anyone from the Qatari government to solicit sovereign funds for any of our projects,” Taylor told Newsweek in an email. “To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and false.
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Why it matters:
The half-an hour meeting by Charles Kushner and the Qatari delegates was held on 24 April, weeks before a diplomatic row erupted between Qatar and a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman suggested Qatar supported terrorist groups and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE imposed a land, sea and air siege on the country.
Jared Kushner was later reported to have scuppered efforts made by secretary of state Rex Tillerson to resolve the dispute.
Lashing out at the report, a Democratic senator, Chris Murphy told ABC said that if proven, the allegations could mean that Kushner acted in the interests of his fathers business empire while serving the government.
If it’s true, it’s damning. If it’s true, he’s got to go.
The Gulf row drew fault lines in the sand between Gulf Cooperation Council powers, pitting Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain against Qatar and splitting the US-allied bloc founded in 1980 as a counter-weight to regional powers Iran.
Since a blockade was imposed in June, the transfer of goods, people and capital from Doha’s ports, airports, land borders and banks have faced severe disruptions, with an estimated $30 billion blow to Qatar’s economy in capital outflows, and further withdrawals expected.
The country has also dipped into their $340 billion stockpile of reserves, using up $38 billion since its trade, tourism and banking sectors suffered under the restrictions, according to ratings agency Moody’s.