Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, haggled the price of an anti-ballistic missile defense system with the CEO of Lockheed Martin on behalf of the Saudi government, the New York Times reported.
In a meeting with a Saudi delegation earlier this month, Kushner personally called Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn A. Hewson — whose company makes a THAAD radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles — and asked her to cut the system’s after “sensing” that the cost would be prohibitive for the Saudis, the Times reported. Officials told the publication that Kushner’s guests “watched slack-jawed” as Hewson said she would look into it.
The news of Kushner’s intervention comes as Trump is set to visit Saudi Arabia on Friday to announce an arms sales deal estimated to be worth $110 billion. During his visit, Trump is expected to say the deal represents America’s “renewed commitment to security in the Persian Gulf,” although several weapons in the deal had already been approved by his predecessor’s administration.
Kushner’s phone call doesn’t break any laws since Lockheed Martin is the only company that produces the radar system, meaning the contract can’t be offered to another organization. But questions persist about the Trump administration’s break with traditional diplomacy in favor of backroom wheeling and dealing. The incident echoes a similar bargaining tactic in February when Trump called Hewson to lower the price of F-35 fighter jets it was selling to the Pentagon.
What’s most troubling is that Kushner’s personal intervention on behalf of the Saudi government could pave the way for potential conflicts within his family’s real estate projects down the road. His father-in-law Trump — who in the past said he liked the Saudis because they buy apartments from him — registered eight companies tied to hotel interests in Saudi Arabia near the beginning of his presidential campaign announcement in 2015.
“They buy apartments from me,” Trump said last year on the presidential campaign trail. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”