After kicking off a rare public appearance on Monday by answering a series of laughable softball questions from CNN's Van Jones—"How did you get this job? You have like the dopest job in the world"—President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner admitted that the facts of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder are separate from "what we want to believe" and argued that whatever the administration's "fact-finding phase" reveals, the U.S. must stick with its brutal ally to counter Iran.
"We're getting facts in from multiple places," Kushner said during Citizen by CNN, a day-long political forum in New York City. "Once those facts come in, the secretary of state will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe... We have our eyes wide open."
CNN's Van Jones: “Do you trust the Saudis to investigate themselves?”
Jared Kushner: “We’re getting facts in from multiple places. Once those facts come in, the Secretary of State will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe” #CITIZENCNN pic.twitter.com/JW8MDkHl3J
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 22, 2018
Critics immediately recognized that Kushner's remarks were "probably more accurate" than he intended, as they suggest that the Trump administration is picking and choosing what evidence to accept rather than letting the facts of Khashoggi's murder—and the Saudi kingdom's role—speak for themselves.
"... help us determine what WE WANT to believe." Interesting phrasing. And probably more accurate than Kushner intended. https://t.co/lcIcxMzcv2
— Ned Price (@nedprice) October 22, 2018
"We have to be able to work with our allies and Saudi Arabia has I think been a very strong ally in terms of pushing back on Iran's aggression," Kushner added.
Asked what advice he has given to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman throughout the international crisis sparked by the kingdom's allegedly gruesome murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, Kushner said he told the crown prince to be "transparent and to take this very seriously."
While Kushner's attempts to downplay Saudi Arabia role in Khashoggi's murder were widely condemned, journalists also slammed Van Jones for failing to press Kushner on his close relationship with the crown prince and refusing to heavily scrutinize the Trump administration's behavior following the journalist's killing.
In recent weeks, Lesley Stahl, the AP White House team & now Van Jones have all secured rare sit-down interviews with Trump and Kushner; rare opportunities for a non-Fox interviewer to hold this dishonest, racist, unhinged White House to account.
And they've all blown it. Sigh.
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) October 22, 2018
While Trump has publicly insisted that Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman are just "two young guys" who don't really know each other all that well, the president has reportedly bristled in private that Kushner's "close relationship with the crown prince has become a liability and left the White House with no good options."
According to the New York Times, Kushner has been pressuring Trump behind the scenes to support the crown prince, even as he is being accused of playing a central role in Khashoggi's murder.
"Kushner has argued that the crown prince can survive the outrage just as he has weathered past criticism," the Times reported last week.
Just as Kushner appeared at the network's "political forum," CNN aired exclusive camera footage that appears to show a Khashoggi "body double" leaving Saudi Arabia's Turkish consulate wearing the journalist's clothes to give the appearance that he left the building alive.
The footage, which reportedly came from Turkish officials, was played on television just days after the Saudis claimed Khashoggi died in a "fistfight," not an orchestrated assassination—an explanation that was immediately denounced as ludicrous and completely inconsistent with the facts.