Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner's business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, witnesses who have been interviewed in the Russia investigation told NBC News.
Witnesses are being asked about Kushner's efforts to secure financing for his family's real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates. The family real estate business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar multiple times, including last spring, about investing in its Fifth Avenue property, which is facing roughly $1.4 billion in debt that is due in 2019, but the government declined.
Kushner also held a Trump Tower meeting during the transition in December 2016 with former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, or HBJ, to seek funding for the property. Those talks continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, but last spring HBJ decided against investing. In the weeks after the Qatari government and HBJ talks collapsed, the White House strongly backed an economically punishing blockade against Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, citing the country's support for terrorism as the impetus. Kushner, who is both President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser, has played a major role in Trump's Middle East policy and has developed close relationships with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The White House, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said the blockade against Qatar is in retaliation for their government’s support for terrorism. Though some top Qatari government officials believe the White House's position was a form of retaliation from Kushner.