The Wall Street Journal reported today that U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner early last year about the close friendship that he and his wife Ivanka have with Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of WSJ owner Rupert Murdoch. The officials were concerned that the Chinese-American businesswoman could be using the relationship to further the interests of the Chinese government.
The counterintelligence agents determined that Deng Murdoch was involved in lobbying for a prominent Chinese government-backed construction project at the National Arboretum that was considered a national-security risk after a review of the plans for the $100 million Chinese Gardens showed that it included a 70-foot tall tower that could be used for surveillance in Washington DC.
Wendi Deng Murdoch was an ambitious low-level employee at the Murdoch-owned Asian satellite service StarTV when she met Rupert Murdoch. They married in 1999 and divorced 14 years later. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen after marrying the media tycoon, who gave up his Australian citizenship to become an American in order to be able to legally buy and operate the Fox broadcast network.
Deng Murdoch and the Trump Kushners have been friends for years and have vacationed together as recently as 2016, with Ivanka posting Instagram photos of the pair touring Croatia together.
A spokesperson for Kushner and Trump issued a statement in reaction to the report, saying that the couple “have been friends with Rupert and Wendi Murdoch for a decade before coming to Washington and their relationship is neither political nor about China.’”
Ivanka Trump was, in fact, a trustee for the inheritance accounts set up for the children of Rupert and Wendi Murdoch and has famously made sure that her own daughter learned to speak Mandarin well enough to sing a song in the language when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mar-a-Lago last year. The Kushner family real estate business has been criticized for using their political connections to court Chinese money by offering access to $500,000 “investor visas” in exchange for investments in their properties.
The intelligence agency officials have had Wendi Deng Murdoch on their radar for some time after reports of an extra-marital affair with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair led British intelligence agents to confer with their American colleagues about whether she posed a security risk. According to the WSJ:
“Generally, U.S. counterintelligence officials have been warning of potential attempts by the Chinese government to exploit ethnic Chinese living in the U.S. who have both access to power and family back in China, giving Beijing leverage.”
If all of this sounds suspiciously familiar, substitute the word “Russia” for “China,” and you begin to realize that perhaps there’s a pattern of business dealings that fails to meet the highest standards of ethics for unelected government officials. After all, who would you believe, senior counterintelligence officers or self-serving trust-fund kids?