Medina : Donald Trump has never been shy about talking up his close business relationships with the Saudis. “I get along great with all of them,” Trump said of the Saudis at a 2015 campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”
But the President’s reluctance to take decisive action after the disappearance this month of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi — a US resident — from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has renewed questions about the potential conflicts posed by Trump’s long-standing ties to the kingdom’s royal family.
“Having a President with global business ties means we’ve got ongoing worries that policy is going to be affected by his business interests,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that has tracked potential conflicts of interest involving Trump and members of his administration. “We know that historically the Saudis have spent huge money on Trump properties and we know that since he became a candidate and was elected they have targeted discretionary spending at his hotels.”
The president made millions selling apartments in his New York buildings to the kingdom, and the Trump Organization has benefited from Saudi business at its hotels in Washington, New York and Chicago.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, hasn’t been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve paperwork that would permit him to marry his Turkish fiancee. In recent days Turkish authorities have obtained audio and visual evidence that shows he was murdered inside the consulate, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN.
Khashoggi’s disappearance has triggered a wave of top political and business leaders severing ties with the kingdom pending further details of what happened to him. Media organizations, including CNN, have dropped out of a high-profile investor conference slated for later this month in Riyadh.
Trump said Friday he would call Saudi King Salman “at some point,” after senior officials, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, held calls earlier this week with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Kushner has developed a particularly close personal relationship.