The Wall Street Journal published a very heartening scoop Monday, reporting that U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner early last year that close friend Wendi Deng Murdoch—ex-wife of billionaire Rupert and rumored paramour of Vladimir Putin—could be exploiting her relationship with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump to “further the interests of the Chinese government.”
To be clear, the Journal isn’t reporting that Deng is acting as an agent of the Chinese government, per se, or that she has been accused of a crime—merely that she appeared to lobby for a series of real estate projects in the U.S. that would also benefit the Chinese government. That intelligence reportedly struck federal officials as noteworthy enough to pass along to Kushner, then a newly tapped senior White House adviser .
The Wall Street Journal reports:
U.S. officials have also had concerns about a counterintelligence assessment that Ms. Murdoch was lobbying for a high-profile construction project funded by the Chinese government in Washington, D.C., one of these people said.
The project, a planned $100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, was deemed a national-security risk because it included a 70-foot-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance, according to people familiar with the intelligence community’s deliberations over the garden. The garden was planned on one of the higher patches of land near downtown Washington, less than 5 miles from both the Capitol and the White House.
Ivanka, who was photographed gently cradling Wendi’s head at her father’s inauguration, was reportedly not made aware of the briefing.
Noting that the couple has been friends with Wendi Deng for “a decade,” a spokesperson for Trump and Kushner told the Journal that the trio’s friendship is “not about China.” (Deng, for her part, denied through her spokesman any knowledge of “garden projects funded by the Chinese government” or “FBI concerns.”)
As Molly Osberg wrote in 2016, Deng is a formidable businesswoman who became closely involved in Rupert Murdoch’s business dealings in China during their marriage; she began “traveling to Beijing regularly and brokering deals with businessmen who preferred a friendly face to Western suits,” where “it’s estimated Deng initiated or advocated for as much as $45 million in Chinese internet investment during her marriage to Murdoch.” By 2011 she was the chief strategist of MySpace China.