Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress.
On his trip to the Middle East, Kushner stopped in Riyadh. While there, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.
But no one from the embassy in Riyadh was in the meetings, according to those same sources. The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh.
“The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told The Daily Beast, adding that officials in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh had insight into where Kushner was when in Saudi Arabia. “But that is normal for his past trips.”
Kushner, who has developed a personal relationship with the crown prince, embarked on several trips to Saudi Arabia over the last several years. On one occasion, he traveled overseas without announcing his trip publicly. He often travels to the region with Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.
When a member of the administration travels to another country, the embassy often helps coordinate the trip and provides some kind of security. This time, though, the Saudi government provided security for Kushner and his entourage, sources said. And the embassy was largely left in the dark on the details of Kushner’s schedule and his conversations with Saudi officials, according to two individuals with knowledge of the trip to the country.
The State Department referred The Daily Beast to the White House for comment. “This reporting is not true and the sources are misinformed,” a senior administration official told The Daily Beast, adding that the embassy in Riyadh was involved in Kushner’s visit and meetings.
The lack of insight into Kushner’s visit to Saudi Arabia has frustrated members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, who told The Daily Beast that they are actively trying to learn more about the conversations between senior U.S. administration officials and Saudi Arabia.
Lawmakers said they were concerned that the embassy in Riyadh did not have knowledge of what was discussed between Kushner, MBS and King Salman, pointing to the increasingly fragile relationship between the two countries following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Lawmakers are particularly interested in understanding the back and forth between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia regarding a potential nuclear deal.
The Daily Beast reported last week that the Trump administration is still actively working to make a deal to send U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and that American energy businesses are still hoping to cash in on Riyadh’s push for energy diversification.
Professional staff and officials in the administration said they are interested in the possible connection between efforts by private businesses to engage with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy and the quiet, ongoing discussions between senior U.S. officials and Riyadh about a deal.