Ahead of the final day of President Donald Trump's in the White House, both Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin used their positions to score meetings with international leaders. After leaving the Trump administration they scored major investments from those same international leaders for their respective hedge funds.
Now the New York Times is noting that both Kushner and Mnuchin have started the Abraham Fund, named after Kushner's Abraham Accord, a kind of plan that aimed to establish peace in the Middle East, but ultimately just made a few agreements. The Abraham Fund would have the U.S. government pay for $3 billion in projects around the Middle East.
Kushner was the chief of the project, but after he left, the project came to a close.
"Yet after Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin crisscrossed the Middle East in the final months of the administration on trips that included trying to raise money for the project, each quickly launched a private fund that in some ways picked up where the Abraham Fund had ended," said the Times.
The two men brought top aides who helped score Gulf leaders and royal families while promoting the Abraham Fund while trying to score cash for their own hedge funds.
Mnuchin got $500 million commitments from the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Qataris, according to documents by the main sovereign wealth fund, which itself then gave $1 billion. Kushner got $2 billion from the Saudis.
The actions are under examination for any possible ethics violations.
"Both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin hired several aides who were deeply involved in the accords: A top executive at Affinity, retired Maj. Gen. Miguel Correa, is a former military attaché in the Emirates who later worked in the White House. Top executives at Mr. Mnuchin’s fund, Liberty Strategic Capital, include a former ambassador to Israel and a former Treasury aide who helped arrange meetings with Gulf leaders," said the Times.
The revolving door spun so fast that there was one executive who appeared to be working for the government and for Liberty Strategic at the same time, the report explained. There were 11 executives and advisers given to the Saudis by April 2021 that included "Managing Director Michel D'Ambrosio," except he was still the assistant director of the Secret Service" at the time.
Eli Miller was working at the Treasury Department with Mnuchin and began working for him as far back as 2019. He had been working for the Persian Gulf sovereign wealth funds at Blackstone, another investment firm where Mnuchin once served.
There are questions about Kushner that some officials have urged the Justice Department to examine. For Mnuchin, there was a question about him going from Wall Street to the government sector.
“If he was, that is an abuse of his office,” Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis said. “I don’t know if it is criminal, but it is certainly corrupt.”
Mnuchin denied that the details in the Saudi documents were wrong.
The Times revealed that while coming into the White House, Kushner tried to install his own Treasury secretary, but Mnuchin built his own countercampaign, those familiar with the effort told the Times. The two men kept their distance in the administration even though they have similar interests.
Mnuchin also had investments from the region before Kushner, who never had any relationships prior to the White House. While in the Trump administration, Mnuchin spent more time in the Middle East than his predecessor. In fact, he made more than twice as many trips to meet with Persian Gulf monarchies than the previous secretary.
“He was a business guy who really knew how to do personal diplomacy, and they liked him,” said Michael Greenwald, a former Treasury attaché in Kuwait and Qatar. He served in both Trump and Barack Obama's administrations. “So that was an effective tool.”
Kushner went on at least 10 trips to the Persian Gulf, and formed a close alliance with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even after American intelligence revealed he ordered the brutal murder of a Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. Kushner defended MBS. Mnuchin announced his firm just three weeks after leaving office.
Kushner's slower start happened six months later when he announced his $2 billion investment from the Saudis. He didn't even have any staff. He ultimately hired his close aide and Correa, who clashed with diplomats who believed he was doing unauthorized arms sales. He was then evacuated to the White House. By the close of the Trump campaign, the two men were the only ones on the trips with Kushner.