Kushner-gate and the Qatar blockade: Scandal of the century?
After the Watergate scandal in 1972, the Fourth Estate returns once again to the limelight with successive political and financial scandals haunting the Trump White House.
Relying on leaked intelligence memos, the Washington Post has again exposed a scandal, this time involving Trump’s son-in-law and close aide Jared Kushner.
The Post exposed the existence of agreements between Kushner and four states, the UAE, China, Israel and Mexico, whereby he would allegedly exchange political influence in return for financial dealings for him and his indebted real-estate family.
Kushner sought to exploit his position to borrow money to help his troubled family business, and asked the state of Qatar to invest in a building he controls in New York. When Qatar refused to make the investment, Kushner apparently developed a grudge against Qatar, and sided with the countries blockading the Gulf nation, according to a report in The Daily Intelligencer later confirmed by CBNC News on March 2.
But for what purpose? Or more accurately, for what price Kushner has no doubt collected from other entities?
The reports highlighted Kushner’s political inexperience, in addition to allegedly colluding in dubious dealings for personal and political gain, prompting Congressman Ted Lieu on February 27 to call on Twitter for Kushner to be fired if the reports prove true, and not just to reduce his security clearing.
Later, a host on ABC’s This Week said if it’s true that Kushner sided with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their blockade of Qatar, which endangers US interests, then he has got to go.
Kushner is in fact in charge of the Middle East peace dossier in the White House. But given his financial ties to the countries destabilising the Middle East, one has to ask: what peace is he speaking of? Indeed, chaos has spread across the entire region ever since Kushner, his wife, and his father-in-law set foot in the Arabian Peninsula, to peddle a American-Gulf deal alongside the so-called Deal of the Century.
"Our man on top"
Not long after the revelations, the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly decided to change security clearances, barring Kushner from attending daily ‘top secret’ intelligence briefings. Many US commentators saw this development as a new scandal that has discredited Kushner in the eyes of his Middle East interlocutors.
According to CNN, the FBI is still also investigating deals involving Kushner’s wife Ivanka Trump, which has prompted the latter to ask Kelly to pressure his daughter to leave the White House. According to The New York Times, the main reason is Kushner.
The Times also said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation into Russian meddling to include possible involvement by the UAE in buying influence among American decision makers through George Nader, adviser to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed, with witnesses reporting secret meetings between Bin Zayed and Trump, and the UAE allegedly allocating funds to the Trump campaign in return for supporting UAE policies in the region and the bid to install Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
According to CNN, the Emirati ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, may have even drafted Trump’s speech in which he claimed Qatar supported terrorism. In addition, the BBC on Monday published a report on leaked emails exposing the UAE alleged involvement in lobbying to get Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, sacked because of his opposition to the UAE’s stance on Qatar and the blockade of Doha.
Recall Trump’s relationship to the events in the Gulf. In his book Fire and Fury, Michael Woff wrote about how Trump boasted in front of his friends, after Mohammed bin Salman became the new crown prince, for having staged with his son in law a coup in Saudi Arabia, saying: “We put our man on top.”
Hints of Watergate
All these scandals fueled scoop after scoop in the US political press, and triggered demands in the Congress and the US justice system for action. In truth, this is reminiscent of the Watergate scandal, at the peak of which the Republican President Richard Nixon resigned, in 1974, following an investigative report published by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post.
Among the similarities is the fact that when it was proven that senior officials were involved in the scandal, and the investigation expanded into the White House staff, Nixon sacked two of his top aides, increasing the suspicions about him. When the hearings into the case were aired on television, Nixon’s popularity plummeted, forcing him to resign to avoid impeachment.
Such is the power of the Fourth Estate, and what we don’t yet know may even be worse. Indeed, the collusion in the violation of the American people’s right to a fair and free election is global, not just local. Kushner has apparently implicated Trump in Russian meddling, and now, in possible Emirati meddling in the same campaign – and the investigations are not even concluded yet.
If the Americans call Watergate the mother of all American political scandals, then Kushner-gate may be the father of all scandals.
John Dean, the White House attorney during Watergate, told the Telegraph in January there were similarities with Watergate in that it began “with a break in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, while "Russiagate" started with a hack of the committee's computers”.
Dean remarkably said that Trump was more dangerous than Nixon. The latter, he said, was competent but dishonest while Trump was incompetent and dishonest. He also suggested Mueller’s investigation would be more damaging to the United States than the Nixon scandal.
Will the White House and Congress revolt against Trump and hold him accountable? Or will they stand idly by as Trump and his Gulf warmonger friends lead a revolt against the US constitution and US values? Will Kushner-gate be the scandal of the century?
The American people must take stock of their power and exercise their full rights under the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate, to demand answers and accountability, or face the grim future threatening American democracy.
This is an edited version of the original Arabic article.
Maryam Al-Khater is a Qatari writer and media personality.
Follow her on Twitter: @medad_alqalam
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.