Jared Kushner said that he does not “dispute” American intelligence’s conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman was behind the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but argued that it’s most important to prioritize American foreign policy interests.
Speaking at the TIME 100 Summit on Tuesday, the senior White House advisor called Khashoggi’s death an “absolutely terrible tragedy” but said his own responsibility is advancing American interests.
Kushner, who has been angling for an Arab-Israeli peace agreement throughout his time at the White House, has fostered a close relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince. In December, Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Elijah Cummings said that Kushner had used WhatsApp to communicate with bin Salman and other foreign officials, in what could be a possible breach of federal law.
Kushner said Tuesday that when he spoke to bin Salman after Khashoggi’s death, he urged him to “be as transparent as possible.”
“And obviously, we have to make sure there is accountability for what happened,” Kushner said.
Pressed if he thought bin Salman had taken his advice, Kushner responded, “Well, we’ll find out.”
During Tuesday’s summit, Kushner also touched on the Saudi’s participation in the war in Yemen, arguing that Saudi Arabia is trying to “defend themselves.” About 85,000 children are believed to have died as a result of starvation in Yemen between April 2015 and October 2018, according to analysis by Save the Children.
Kushner defended the Trump administration’s decision to continue military assistance to Saudi Arabia, saying that the U.S. needs to be a “dependable supplier.”
“If you don’t sell these materials- weapons to Saudi Arabia, they’re going to buy from China and Russia. At the end of the day, they want to be able to defend themselves,” Kushner said.