Jared Kushner is expected to visit Saudi Arabia next month for an economic conference, one year after a slew of businesses and political figures boycotted the event following the grisly killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Kushner, a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, is expected to attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh — unofficially known as “Davos in the Desert” — in late October, according to a list of attendees obtained by The Washington Post. The conference is at the Ritz-Carlton, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imprisoned hundreds of the country’s business and political leaders for months in what he called an anti-corruption campaign as he consolidated power in the oil-rich kingdom.

Kushner is likely to attend the conference but has not yet officially confirmed and would do so as part of a broader U.S. delegation, said someone familiar with his plans who was not authorized to discuss the issue on the record and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

AD
AD

Last year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin withdrew from the forum amid controversy after a team of 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul on government aircraft in October and killed Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Post, inside the Saudi Consulate there, where he had gone to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman. Investigators believe the team used a bone saw to dismember him.

The CIA later concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing.

Mnuchin may also attend the conference, said someone familiar with the planning, but was not included on the list of attendees obtained by The Post. A spokesman for Mnuchin did not respond to a request for comment.

AD

In an email statement, a White House official said it was important for the administration to continue working with partners such as Saudi Arabia on a range of issues, including “the recent attack on the global economy” — a reference to drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities last weekend. 

AD

Kushner, the person familiar with his plans said, is appreciative that the Saudis sent a significant delegation to the Peace to Prosperity economic workshop that he helped organize in Bahrain in June as part of the administration’s Middle East peace effort and is considering attending the Riyadh forum partly as a reciprocal gesture.

Kushner and the president have come under scrutiny for defending — and not punishing — the Saudi government, even as the crown prince and his emissaries offered contradictory and dishonest answers about Khashoggi’s killing and the government’s role in it.

AD

But many Trump allies argue that Saudi Arabia is a close ally — Trump made the kingdom the first stop on his first foreign trip in 2017 — with whom the United States must continue to work. On Wednesday, for instance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh to meet with Mohammed and affirm U.S. support after the surprise attacks that devastated Saudi oil fields. 

AD

Kushner has maintained a close relationship with the crown prince, and his private communications with the Saudi leader on a messaging app have drawn scrutiny from Capitol Hill investigators and others in the Trump administration. Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, sometimes complained that he was kept out of the loop by Kushner on issues involving Saudi Arabia, former administration officials said.

Trump has downplayed Kushner’s relationship with the kingdom.

AD

“Jared doesn’t do business with Saudi Arabia. They’re two young guys. Jared doesn’t know him well or anything,” the president told The Post last year. “They are just two young people. They are the same age.”

Administration officials say that it makes sense to attend the conference because Saudi Arabia is a close ally — and a key trading partner on oil.

 Other expected attendees, according to a tentative list, are Tom Barrack, a longtime Trump friend; David Malpass, president of the World Bank; and Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican and former House majority leader who is now an executive at Moelis & Co. 

AD
AD