Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Jared Kushner with Saudi officials at the White House. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner was identified "as a crucial focal point" by a delegation of Saudis that visited the United States at the start of the Trump administration, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Kushner's relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has insulated the kingdom from heavy criticism in the administration. According to the Times, the two "were on a first-name basis" while texting and speaking on the phone, and their conversations continued after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, of which the kingdom has denied responsibility. The White House maintained in a statement to the Times that Kushner "has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines."

Details: From the start of the administration, there was concern among senior officials that Kushner "sought to help Prince Mohammed...vault ahead in the line for the throne," before MBS was made the crown prince, the NYT reports.

  • When MBS visited the United States, Kushner ensured he received "the kind of treatment usually reserved for heads of state."
  • When the administration visited Riyadh in March 2017, White House officials began to fear there was "a risk the Saudis were playing" Kushner, a former White House official told the Times.
  • The two men have "continued to chat informally" since the situation surrounding Khashoggi has unfolded, with Kushner offering MBS "advice about how to weather the storm...and avoid further embarrassments."

The Saudis were working before the inauguration to align themselves with the Trump administration, the NYT reports, offering its assistance to help the White House "fulfill its campaign pledges."

  • A presentation put together by the Saudis after a team met with Kushner in November 2016 mentioned his "lack of familiarity with the history of Saudi-American relations," and identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as "the most important issues to draw Kushner's attention."
  • Many initiatives proposed by the Saudis to help Trump "deliver for his supporters" per the NYT were welcomed by the Trump administration, including defense contracts with the kingdom, pledged assistance in defeating terrorism, and more.

The White House's statement: "Jared has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines regarding the relationship with MBS and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts.”

Go deeper

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

Amanda Gorman steals the show on Inauguration Day

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

Poet Amanda Gorman by far generated the most average interactions on social media on Inauguration Day, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategy

Biden signs executive orders on Jan. 21. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday signed a slew of executive orders to address the coronavirus pandemic, including an interstate face mask mandate and an order to renew supplies of PPE, testing materials and vaccines through the Defense Production Act.

Why it matters: The stakes are highest for Biden’s vaccination effort. Several states cannot keep up with demand.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!