January 21, 2018
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner attends bilateral meetings held by U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images
Jared Kushner, whom President Donald Trump entrusted as his chief diplomatic contact with China despite having no prior government experience, reportedly met with a Chinese ambassador alone on at least one occasion, raising security concerns among counterintelligence officials.
The president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser met Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, during the Trump campaign and reunited with him several times during Trump’s transition and even more often in the months after Trump took office, The New Yorker reported earlier this week.
“Jared became Mr. China,” Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon aide on Trump’s transition team, told the magazine.
Kushner was China’s “lucky charm,” a former National Security Council member said. “It was a dream come true. They couldn’t believe he was so compliant.”
Cui, who during previous administrations was received at the White House with a group of China experts and note-takers, often got to meet with Kushner without the U.S. government’s top China specialists.
Some officials, who were not invited nor briefed on the meetings with Cui, were left to comb through American intelligence documents in order to get a sense of how Chinese diplomats described interactions with Kushner. That is unusual because officials typically sit in on meetings with representatives of foreign countries for national security purposes.
“There’s nobody else there in the room to verify what was said and what wasn’t, so the Chinese can go back and claim anything,” a former senior U.S. official briefed on the meetings told The New Yorker. “I’m sorry, Jared—do you think your background is going to allow you to be able to outsmart the Chinese Ambassador?”
A spokesman for Kushner said that China specialists did not tell him that “he shouldn’t be doing it the way he was doing it at the time.”
Within the intelligence community, China‘s influence operations are of equal concern as those of Russia.
Counterintelligence officials warned Kushner last year that his wife Ivanka Trump’s best friend, Wendi Deng Murdoch, could be using her friendship with them to benefit the Chinese government, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Kushner’s portfolio—which when he moved into the West Wing early last year also included rewriting the U.S.’s trade agreements and forging peace in the Middle East—has been reduced, and he no longer meets with Cui frequently.