Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, continued talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman even after the October 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents in Istanbul, The New York Times said in a report.
As the killing set off a firestorm around the world and American intelligence agencies concluded that it was ordered by Prince Mohammed, Kushner became the Prince's most important defender inside the White House, The Times quoted informed sources as saying in the report issued on Saturday.
Since the early months of the Trump administration, Kushner had been having private, informal conversations with the Prince.
Given Kushner's political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former White House officials.
In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new Chief of Staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.
But even with the restrictions in place, Kushner and Prince Mohammed kept speaking, according to the officials.
In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls.
In a statement to The New York Times, a White House spokesman said: "Jared has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines regarding the relationship with the Crown Prince and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts."
White House officials declined to explain those protocols and guidelines, and declined to comment on Kushner's one-on-one communications with Prince Mohammed since the killing of Khashoggi.
According to a CNN report in October, Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton had called the Crown Prince nearly a week after Khashoggi went missing from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and amid an investigation into the journalist's disappearance.
Initially claiming no involvement, the Saudis later admitted a team of rogue operatives had murdered Khashoggi inside the consulate.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessed in November that the Crown Prince had personally ordered the killing of the journalist.
The Saudi government has denied bin Salman's involvement.
Trump and the State Department have maintained that the US government has not reached a final conclusion about who is responsible for Khashoggi's death.