Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin traveled through the Middle East in the weeks before Trump left office, ostensibly to raise money for the Abraham Fund, which was supposed to fund various development initiatives in the region. The New York Times reported on Monday, however, that the fund was essentially a shell, that it dissolved after the former president left office, and that Kushner and Mnuchin’s own firms went on to land hundreds of millions of dollars from the nations they visited while working in the White House.
Kushner has since pitched investing in his firm, Affinity Partners, as a way to uphold the Abraham Accords, the 2020 peace agreement between the U.S., Israel, and the UAE that inspired the creation of the Abraham Fund, according to the Times.
The report comes a month after the Times reported that Affinity Partners received $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund six months after Trump left office. The fund’s advisers thought Kushner was too sketchy to warrant such a large investment, but they were overruled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Times noted on Monday that Mnuchin received $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund, plus $500 million from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Mnuchin reportedly met with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar in the final weeks of his run as Treasury secretary, and skipped a planned meeting with Kuwait after the attack on the Capitol. Kushner, meanwhile, made three trips to the Middle East between the 2020 election and Jan. 5, 2021. They both stocked their investment firms with government employees who had previously worked on the Abraham Accords, according to the Times.
The brazenness of the apparent corruption is astonishing but at the same time not very surprising given the Trump administration’s habit of using the levers of the government to enrich the personal wealth of its officials and their allies. Kushner’s financial ties the Middle East feel especially egregious, however, given that his interest there was predicated on bringing peace to the region. The idea that a real estate scion with no foreign policy experience was going to bring an end to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts was laughable at the time it was proposed, but it’s unlikely Kushner had many reservations about his ability to mediate the conflict. In her new book, Here’s the Deal, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway bashed Kushner as a “shrewd and calculating” know-it-all.
“There was no subject he considered beyond his expertise,” Conway writes, according to The Washington Post. “Criminal justice reform. Middle East peace. The southern and northern borders. Veterans and opioids. Big Tech and small business. If Martian attacks had come across the radar, he would have happily added them to his ever-bulging portfolio. He’d have made sure you knew he’d exiled the Martians to Uranus and insisted he did not care who got credit for it. He misread the Constitution in one crucial respect, thinking that all power not given to the federal government was reserved to him.”
Kushner seems to think his project of bringing peace to the Middle East is still ongoing, and that now that he’s no longer in government, the best way to see it through to fruition is for the region’s nations to give him a bunch of money. “If we can get Israelis and Muslims in the region to do business together it will focus people on shared interests and shared values,” he told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, speaking of the work of Affinity Partners. “We kicked off historic regional change which needs to be reinforced and nurtured to achieve its potential.”