The comedian roasted President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on Tuesday for his reported text communications with the crown prince and suggested that Kushner use his relationship with the Saudi leader, commonly referred to as “MBS,” to help free imprisoned activists.
“I’m very lucky that I get to be here in America and I can make jokes about very powerful leaders, and I have the safety of being here in America,” Minhaj said. “We have a lot of incredible rights here in America and safeties that we take for granted oftentimes.”
He then noted the imprisonment of Loujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi activist who fought to lift the country’s ban on female drivers, and pointedly suggested that “a high-ranking official in the White House” advocate for her release.
“This is a very powerful room, and I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here, and it would be crazy if — I don’t know, if there was just, like, a high-ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, ‘Hey, maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it,’ but that would be crazy,” Minhaj quipped.
Minhaj, whose politics and standup show “Patriot Act” premiered on Netflix in October 2018, was being honored at Tuesday’s summit as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019. Kushner was seated a few tables away from the comedian, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter.
Time’s senior White House correspondent Brian Bennet interviewed Kushner earlier on Tuesday about the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. The CIA has concluded that Khashoggi was killed at the behest of the Saudi crown prince.
Though Kushner called Khashoggi’s death “horrible,” he contended that his job as part of the Trump administration is to look after U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia.
Asked whether he accepted the CIA’s findings, Kushner didn’t give a direct answer.
“I’m not going to dispute American intelligence services’ recommendations,” he said. “I’m also not going to talk about anything intelligence-related.”
Instead, he recited a list of Trump’s goals in the Middle East, including curbing Iran, defeating the Islamic State terror group, quashing extremism and working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Bennet later asked Kushner if he had advised the Saudi crown prince on managing the fallout of Khashoggi’s death.
“The advice I gave was, be as transparent as possible and that obviously we have to make sure there’s accountability for what happened,” Kushner replied.
In December 2018, The New York Times reported that Kushner and the crown prince had spoken before and after Khashoggi’s killing, citing unnamed former U.S. officials and two individuals the Saudis had briefed. WhatsApp is reportedly the Saudi leader’s preferred method of communication.
Minhaj was critical of Saudi leaders when he denounced Khashoggi’s death on his show last year. In January, the Financial Times reported that the Saudi government had stripped Minhaj’s episode from its Netflix platform.