That Jared Kushner has close ties to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman isn't a bombshell revelation. But the New York Times has a lengthy story explaining how that relationship came to be, finding that the Saudis identified Kushner more than two years ago as their best chance to gain leverage in the White House and then began "wooing" him. A Saudi delegation close to the prince visited the US in November 2016 on a fact-finding mission of sorts and later put together a slide presentation. One slide read: “The inner circle is predominantly deal makers who lack familiarity with political customs and deep institutions, and they support Jared Kushner." They also knew Kushner badly wanted to help broker a deal between Israelis and Palestinians, and the Saudis promised to help.
That led to a series of private, informal calls and texts between Kushner and bin Salman, or "Jared" and "Mohammed" as they called each other. It paid off early for the Saudis. Kushner engineered a face-to-face meeting between the prince and President Trump by getting him invited to a formal lunch at the White House, a feat the newspaper describes as "bending protocol" because it's the kind of treatment reserved for heads of state. The Times quotes three former senior US officials who say worries grew that Kushner would be manipulated, leading to enforcement of a rule that an NSC official be present on all calls between them. Even so, the informal chats have continued, even after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, per the Times. In fact, the story says Kushner gave advice to the prince on damage control. Read the full story. (Read more Jared Kushner stories.)