“I was invited to a meeting,” he said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Before the meeting, Kushner Companies had decided that it was not going to accept sovereign wealth fund investments. We informed the Qatar representatives of our decision and they agreed. Even if they were there ready to wire the money, we would not have taken it.”
The company said Kushner agreed to the meeting as a courtesy.
A spokesman for the Qatari Embassy in Washington said his government had no comment.
Kushner told The Post in a January interview that he would have refused the money if it had been offered, but the comment was not on the record, and he did not disclose that he had met with the Qataris after the inauguration. Kushner put the comment on the record Sunday and added details about the circumstances of the meeting.
The April 2017 meeting at the St. Regis Hotel between the top Qatari official and Charles Kushner came as Jared Kushner was deeply immersed in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East, a central part of his portfolio as a top aide to the president.
One of his top priorities at the time was preparing for Trump’s maiden overseas trip, to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe in late May, and in developing a new peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. While in Riyadh, Trump forged a close bond with Saudi King Salman, while Jared Kushner solidified his relationship with Salman’s son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Days after the summit, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, with Trump’s public support, revived their long-standing charges that Qatar was funding international terrorism, broke relations with the neighboring country and instituted an economic boycott.
The meeting between Charles Kushner and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi was reported earlier this month by the online publication the Intercept. It said the meeting had been requested by Kushner. At the time, Kushner Companies said in response that “we did not meet with anyone from the Qatari Government to solicit sovereign funds for any of our projects. To suggest otherwise, is inaccurate and false.”
The statement did not address whether a meeting took place, however, and the company declined to respond to follow-up questions at the time. Kushner’s statement to The Post marks the first time he has confirmed the meeting took place.
The company did not respond to a question about whether there was a follow-up meeting at the Kushner Companies office, which the finance minister did not attend in person, as the Intercept has reported.
Jared Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, had relinquished control of his family’s real estate business upon joining the administration. That left his father to continue the search for financing for a major project considered an important part of the company’s health.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television during his April visit, Emadi said investments by his country’s sovereign wealth fund were “purely commercial driven . . . we go where we think we’re going to have value. We like what we see here” in the United States, he said.
Kushner Companies’ need for a cash infusion stemmed from Jared Kushner’s decision in 2007 to sell off many of its New Jersey apartments to buy the nation’s most expensive building, a 41-story tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Shortly after the purchase for $1.8 billion, the real estate market crashed, and Kushner refinanced the property, leaving the company with a $1.2 billion loan that comes due in early 2019.
With the building losing money, Kushner and his company came up with a plan to redevelop the tower and double its size. That required significant amounts of cash. Kushner looked at potential sources around the world, and Qatar emerged as one of the leading candidates.
The Kushners had earlier sought money from Qatar, working from 2014 until at least 2016 to obtain funding from a private investment fund run by Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, a wealthy former prime minister.
A tentative deal for $500 million fell through because Qatar sought to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest after Jared Kushner was named senior White House adviser, according to Tom Barrack, a Trump friend who had suggested Hamad look at investing with the Kushners.
Others have said that Hamad pulled out because his funding was contingent on separate financing with the Chinese insurance fund Anbang, which fell through.
Barrack told The Post that Charles Kushner was “crushed” when the deal fell through.