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Kushner Remained Saudi Crown Prince's Champion After Khashoggi Killing – Reports

© REUTERS / Jonathan ErnstSaudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman escorts White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and his wife White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump at the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman escorts White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and his wife White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump at the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Riyadh has denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in any capacity.

Trump son-in-law and senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner remained in close contact with the Saudi crown prince and became MBS's "most important defender inside the White House" after Khashoggi's killing, the New York Times has reported, citing former US intelligence officials, individuals briefed by the Saudis, and people familiar with internal White House deliberations.

One Saudi official said to have been briefed on the conversations told the newspaper that Kushner offered MBS advice on how to weather the fallout over the Khashoggi case, and recommended that the crown prince resolve conflicts in the region.

According to the newspaper's sources, Kushner and MBS became close soon after Trump was elected president, with the two men dropping formalities and referring to one another on a first-name basis.

FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 file photo, Tawakkol Karman, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2011 holds a picture of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi as she speaks to journalists near the Saudi Arabia consulate, in Istanbul, Turkey. - Sputnik International
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Citing "documents, emails and text messages" on Kushner-MBS ties, the newspaper reported that the relationship had been cultivated by the Saudis over a period of over two years, with Kushner identified early on as someone who could assist them in securing MBS's consolidation of power at home before he became crown prince, as well as his "hawkish policies" abroad.

The Saudi side was particularly interested in Kushner's limited knowledge of the region, his business-minded, transactional mindset and 'focus on reaching a deal with the Palestinians that met Israel's demands,' a Saudi delegation which visited the US in November 2016 reportedly said.

According to two individuals familiar with Kushner's efforts, the Trump son-in-law proved instrumental in supporting Saudi proposals for the president to make Saudi Arabia the destination of his first foreign trip. The visit reportedly overruled then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who reportedly feared that such a visit would link the US too closely to Riyadh.

The US diplomatic corps, as well as military officials, reportedly began to worry about Kushner and MBS's communications via WhatsApp, citing the "risk the Saudis were playing him," according to a former White House official speaking to NYT.

The White House has declined to comment on Kushner's alleged communications with MBS in the wake of Khashoggi's killing. Saudi authorites have not commented on the story.

In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman addresses the Future Investment Initiative conference, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 - Sputnik International
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Saudi journalist and MBS critic Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after being detained there on October 2. In late October, Saudi authorities confirmed that Khashoggi had been killed at the consulate. Last month, Saudi prosecutors revealed that he had been dismembered at the consulate after being restrained and heavily drugged. Riyadh emphasized that Khashoggi's murder was a "rogue operation," and that the crown prince was not involved in any capacity. Five suspects face the death penalty if found guilty. 

Last week, a bipartisan group of US senators introduced a resolution calling for MBS to be held accountable for Khashoggi's murder after being briefed by CIA director Gina Haspel. Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the bill's cosponsors, said of the CIA report on MBS's alleged complicity that "there's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw."

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