Just a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a group of Senators is demanding answers—not about Khashoggi’s possible death at the hands of the Saudi government, but rather President Trump’s business ties to the Kingdom.
Eleven Senators, all Democrats, sent a letter to Trump and the Trump Organization on Wednesday asking for “a full accounting of any financial ties between the Trump Organization and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The letter cites a number of public reports of various business dealings between the Trumps and Saudi Arabia, including numerous real estate sales. It goes on to highlight that a “bipartisan group of twenty-two senators” has opened an investigation and a Global Magnitsky Act determination to glean information about Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible murder.
“It is imperative that this sanctions determination,” the letter states, “and U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia generally, are not influenced by any conflicts of interest that may exist because of your or your family’s deep financial ties to Saudi Arabia.”
The senators then ask Trump to provide answers and documents no later than one month from now, on November 17, including but not limited to: information about any potential business deals between the Trump Organization and Saudi Arabia; a commitment to suspend business relationships with the Saudis while the investigation is ongoing; and the termination of aforementioned relationships should the investigation reveal that senior members of the Saudi government were involved in Khashoggi’s death.
For his part, Trump has denied having any financial interests in Saudi Arabia, calling any suggestion otherwise “fake news.” But, as the Senators point out in their letter, Trump has discussed his business relationships with Saudis at length. At a 2015 rally Trump told supporters, “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
Trump has also refused to consider halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia and emphasized that Khashoggi was not an American citizen. On Wednesday, he said that the U.S. had requested the audio and video recordings Turkey reportedly has of the incident, but called into question whether they actually exist. He later conceded that it “probably does.” He further added that he was expecting a “full report” from Pompeo upon his return from meetings with the Saudis and Turkish officials.