WASHINGTON - Counter-intelligence officials in the United States early last year (2017) warned President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner that Chinese-American businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch might use her friendship with Mr Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump to help China, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (Jan 15).
Citing people familiar with the matter, the report said officials were concerned that Ms Murdoch might seek to further the interests of the Chinese government and was lobbying for a high-profile construction project in Washington DC.
The China-funded project, a planned US$100 million (S$132 million) Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, was deemed a national security risk because it included a 21-metre-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance, WSJ said.
The garden was planned on one of the higher patches of land near downtown Washington, less than 8 kilometres from both the Capitol and the White House.
The report noted, however, that such warnings to senior members of a new administration were not unusual. It said the warning was part of an effort to make Mr Kushner aware of the need to be careful in his dealings with people promoting interests at odds with those of the US.
WSJ said a representative for Mr Kushner and Ms Trump described the interaction with the officials as a "routine senior staff security briefing," and that none of the people mentioned have been accused of wrongdoing.
A spokesman for Ms Murdoch told WSJ that she "has no knowledge of any FBI concerns or other intelligence agency concerns relating to her or her associations." He added that she "has absolutely no knowledge of any garden projects funded by the Chinese government."
Ms Murdoch is the former wife of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp which owns WSJ. He filed for divorce in 2013 but she still uses her married name.
In response to questions from WSJ about Ms Murdoch and the planned garden, a representative from China's Embassy in Washington called the newspaper's information "full of groundless speculations."