Why Ivanka Trump & Wendi Deng Murdoch's Friendship Is Suddenly Under Scrutiny
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in early 2017 that one of his close friendships could present a problem for the American government. Kushner and Ivanka Trump's friend Wendi Deng Murdoch could be a lobbyist for China, the officials claimed, saying they thought she might try to use Javanka to further the interests of Beijing.
What officials were particularly concerned about was a counterintelligence assessment that showed Murdoch was reportedly lobbying for a high-profile construction project in Washington, D.C., funded by the Chinese government. It was planned to be a $100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, that included a 70-foot-tall white tower. Officials were afraid the tower would pose a security risk because it could potentially be used for surveillance, sources close to the matter told the Journal. A rep from China's embassy in Washington called the Journal's report "full of groundless speculations."
The Journal report itself is also under scrutiny — the newspaper is owned by the company of Murdoch's ex-husband, media mogul and News Corporation executive chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Kushner and Ivanka's rep asserted 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."
Murdoch, 49, was born in the city of Jinan, China. She met her ex-husband when she was an executive at the Murdoch–owned Star TV in Hong Kong in 1997 and they married in 1999. Murdoch is now a businesswoman, who does a wide range of things from investing in new tech startups to producing Netflix documentaries. And according to a lengthy profile in Vogue, Murdoch is a successful celebrity matchmaker — indeed, she was the one who introduced Ivanka and Jared.
While officials reportedly warned Kushner of Murdoch's alleged ties to China and stressed the need to be careful about who he associates with and whether or not their interests align with the United States, Ivanka was reportedly not present for the counterintelligence warning. The warning was not an accusation of wrongdoing but a part of a "routine senior staff security briefing," according to a representative for Ivanka and Kushner.
Murdoch's spokesman told the Journal that she "has absolutely no knowledge of any garden projects funded by the Chinese government" and was not aware of "any FBI concerns or other intelligence agency concerns relating to her or her associations."
Kushner's rep said he "has complied with all ethics and disclosure recommendations and has played a helpful role in strengthening the U.S.-China relationship so as to help bring about a better resolution to the many issues the countries have."
Ivanka and Kushner have been close friends with Murdoch for years. The first daughter shared photos of her and Murdoch on vacation together in Croatia in 2016, and Ivanka shared Murdoch's Vogue profile on Instagram, calling her "one of those friends that inspires you to work hard, be better and laugh louder."
Kushner and Ivanka were also criticized for their friendship with Murdoch because there were rumors she was dating Vladimir Putin. While she has denied that she's even met Putin, it didn't stop speculation during the 2016 presidential election around the Trump family's close ties to the Russian dictator.
Aside from being Putin's rumored girlfriend, Murdoch also made headlines when she famously slapped a protestor in 2011 when they tried to throw a pie at her then-husband Murdoch during a public enquiry in London.
Wendi and Rupert Murdoch were married for 14 years and have two children together, Grace Helen and Chloe. They divorced in 2013.