October 18, 2018
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday he will nix his trip to a summit in Saudi Arabia amid increasing pressure on the Trump administration to distance itself from the royal family over the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wont attend investors summit in Saudi Arabia
"Just met with @realDonaldTrump and @SecPompeo and we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia," Mnuchin tweeted.
The Trump administration previously resisted calls from lawmakers in both parties to cancel Mnuchin's planned attendance to the glitzy investors conference, known as "Davos in the Desert." Other American business leaders and foreign officials began pulling out of the summit a week ago amid mounting evidence that the Saudi regime was involved in Khashoggi's disappearance.
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi dissident and journalist who last year obtained U.S. permanent residency over fears for his safety, vanished on Oct. 2, after he entered the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials claim there is gruesome audio and video recordings, described in Turkish media in recent days, that reveal Khashoggi was beheaded and dismembered within minutes of entering the compound.
Saudi Arabia has dismissed the allegations as "baseless." Yet Saudi authorities have failed to produce any evidence proving that Khashoggi left its diplomatic compound unharmed, as they claim.
The Trump administration has seemed to accept the Saudis denials at face value. Both President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have emphasized the long-standing U.S-Saudi alliance as they try to navigate the diplomatic crisis over the alleged murder.
Earlier this week, Mnuchin said he still planned to attend the conference, hosted in Riyadh by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and billed as a gathering for "the world’s most visionary and influential leaders in business, government, and civil society." Modeled after the World Economic Forum held annually in Switzerland, Salman has used the summit to boost Saudi Arabia's profile on the world stage.
But Saudi Arabia's possible role in Khashoggi's disappearance has cast a dark cloud over the elaborate event, a three-day affair scheduled to begin Tuesday. Leading international players, from International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde to French and British finance ministers, have backed out of planned appearances.
Democrats and Republicans alike had publicly called on Mnuchin to skip his trip. Indiana Sen. Todd Young, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday Mnuchin’s presence would "send the erroneous and counterproductive message that all is well in the bilateral relationship."
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