Shortly before the 2020 election, Trump administration officials unveiled a U.S. government-sponsored program called the Abraham Fund that they said would raise $3 billion for projects around the Middle East.
Spearheaded by President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the fund promised to capitalize on diplomatic agreements he had championed between Israel and some Arab states — pacts known as the Abraham Accords. Steven Mnuchin, then Treasury secretary, helped inaugurate the fund on a trip to the United Arab Emirates and Israel, hailing the accords as “a tremendous foundation for economic growth.”
It was little more than talk: With no accounts, employees, income or projects, the fund vanished when Mr. Trump left office. 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.
Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin brought along top aides who had helped court Gulf rulers while promoting the Abraham Fund, and soon, both were back in the same royal courts asking for investments, although for purely commercial endeavors.
Within three months, Mr. Mnuchin’s new firm had circulated detailed investment plans and received $500 million commitments from the Emiratis, Kuwaitis and Qataris, according to previously unreported documents prepared by the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which itself soon committed $1 billion. Mr. Kushner’s new firm reached an agreement for a $2 billion investment from the Saudis six months after he left government.
A New York Times report last month revealing the Saudi investments in the Kushner and Mnuchin funds raised alarms from ethics experts and Democratic lawmakers about the appearance of potential payoffs for official acts during the Trump administration.
But an examination of the two men’s travels toward the end of the Trump presidency raises other questions about whether they sought to exploit official relationships with foreign leaders for private business interests.
In the weeks after the election, Mr. Kushner made three trips to the Middle East, the last for a Jan. 5 summit in Saudi Arabia with leaders of the Gulf monarchies. Mr. Mnuchin that day began a tour through the region that was planned to include private meetings with the heads of the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait — all future investors. (He cut it short after the Capitol riot, dropping the Kuwait stop and, …….