Counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner last year about his friendship with Chinese American businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. According to the Journal, Murdoch’s prominence in the U.S. and connections to China led officials to warn Kushner she could leverage her friendship to benefit the Chinese government.
Kushner and Murdoch have not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the officials did cite a specific project in their concerns: a planned $100 million Chinese garden in the National Arboretum in Washington. According to the Journal, a counterintelligence assessment found Murdoch, who was formerly married to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, advocated for the project, which would be funded by the Chinese government.
The problem with the garden, according to the Journal, is the plan for a 70-foot-tall white tower, which the officials said could be used as a surveillance tool. The garden’s plans, which were drawn up more than a decade ago as a symbol of goodwill between China and the U.S., were reportedly halted because of officials’ national security concerns.
People familiar with the briefing told the Journal the type of briefing was not uncommon and that senior members of an administration are often warned about their foreign connections.
Murdoch, who is a U.S. citizen, was flagged before for potential security risks when rumors of her romantic involvement with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair caused the U.K. government to reach out to the U.S. The Federal Bureau of Investigation told the U.K. officials “there was reason to be watchful,” according to the Journal.
Murdoch has been friends with the Kushners for years.