Dem Rep. Joaquin Castro: I've seen reporting that Jared Kushner put Khashoggi on a hit list for the Saudis

I have … not seen that reporting myself. But I did note this old Intercept story from March in a post last week. Nothing here ties Kushner to Khashoggi’s disappearance but the Intercept did claim that he’d chatted with his buddy, Mohammed bin Salman, to help him with troublemakers closer to home. They’re describing a trip Kushner took to Saudi Arabia last October:

In June, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin, then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and took his place as next in line to the throne, upending the established line of succession. In the months that followed, the President’s Daily Brief contained information on Saudi Arabia’s evolving political situation, including a handful of names of royal family members opposed to the crown prince’s power grab, according to the former White House official and two U.S. government officials with knowledge of the report…

What exactly Kushner and the Saudi royal talked about in Riyadh may be known only to them, but after the meeting, Crown Prince Mohammed told confidants that Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince, according to three sources who have been in contact with members of the Saudi and Emirati royal families since the crackdown. Kushner, through his attorney’s spokesperson, denies having done so…

On November 4, a week after Kushner returned to the U.S., the crown prince, known in official Washington by his initials MBS, launched what he called an anti-corruption crackdown. The Saudi government arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and imprisoned them in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, which was first reported in English by The Intercept. The Saudi figures named in the President’s Daily Brief were among those rounded up; at least one was reportedly tortured.

Kushner was an avid reader of the President’s Daily Brief in the months before he visited bin Salman, the Intercept noted. Did he pass U.S. intelligence to MBS about the Saudi royals who were plotting against the crown, leading to the crackdown in November? Kushner’s spokesman denied it, of course, but the Daily Mail had a similar report at around the same time, in April of this year, claiming that he did:

‘Jared took a list out of names from US eavesdrops of people who were supposedly MBS’s enemies,’ said one source, characterizing how MBS spoke about the information.

‘He took a list out of these people who had been trashing MBS in phone calls, and said ‘these are the ones who are your enemies’.

Leeeetle bit sketchy for a White House advisor to be helping an Islamist monarch conduct purges but such is the nature of the sordid, back-scratching U.S.-Saudi relationship. Anyway, back to Castro: Are the reports I just quoted what he has in mind in recklessly claiming that Kushner put Khashoggi on a hit list? Khashoggi’s not mentioned in either story. And logically, there’d have been no reason for Kushner to mention him. Khashoggi was a journalist, of course, and his criticism of MBS was a matter of public record. He’d already begun writing for the Washington Post’s op-ed page by the time Kushner visited the Kingdom last year. The point of the Intercept and Daily Mail pieces is that Kushner wanted to alert bin Salman to secret treachery that might threaten his hold on power. Khashoggi didn’t threaten him, though, and certainly his antipathy to MBS was no secret. It makes no sense that Kushner would have targeted him, particularly given how the aftershocks of Khashoggi’s apparent murder have threatened relations between the U.S. and the Saudis.

So either Castro’s a dummy who’s guilty of poor reading comprehension or he’s guilty of a Trumpy ploy to aggrandize himself by throwing sensational accusations at his opponents which he knows are specious. (Where’s the birth certificate?) Either way, Trump’s and Kushner’s ties to Saudi Arabia are destined to join Russiagate and Brett Kavanaugh on the Democrats’ investigation to-do list if they take back the House in November. There’s almost certainly no evidence connecting Kushner to Khashoggi’s disappearance but that’s not the point for Dems. The point will be to leverage disgust at what the Saudis did by pinning it to the Trump White House in the form of business deals with the Kingdom, intelligence-sharing on anti-MBS forces, and so on. That might in turn explain why Trump is suddenly talking tough about “very severe” consequences for the Saudis if Khashoggi’s murder is proved. The harder he is on them now, the harder it’ll be for Democrats to make the case next year that he went easy on them for financial reasons.

Having been called out for smearing Kushner this way, Castro’s now trying to walk it back/defend himself on Twitter. Exit question: Maybe he thought that turnabout is fair play when it comes to Khashoggi-related whisper campaigns?

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