Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Drops Out of Saudi Conference

Steven Mnuchin

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he won’t attend an investor summit in Saudi Arabia next week amid an international furor over the Saudi regime’s potential role in the apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“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 wrote on Twitter.

Turkish officials say Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was murdered and dismembered. He hasn’t been seen since he entered the consulate on Oct. 2.

A number of corporations have canceled plans to attend a global finance conference in Saudi Arabia next week, including CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times. Endeavor is exploring whether to back out of a $400 million deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund. Mnuchin said earlier this week that he was still considering whether to attend.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled to Riyadh in the wake of the furor, told reporters on Thursday that in his meeting with Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “we made clear to them that we take this matter very seriously, and they made clear to me that they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi.”

“They also made clear that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi, and that they will do so in a timely fashion. And that this report itself will be transparent, for everyone to see, to ask questions about.”

He also said Turkish officials are conducting their own investigation.

Pompeo noted that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have an “important strategic alliance,” and cautioned to wait until the investigation is completed.

“When we see that … all of us will get a chance to make a determination as to the credibility of the work that went into that, whether it’s truly accurate, fair, and transparent in the very way they made a personal commitment to me, and ultimately made a personal commitment to the president when they spoke to him,” he said.

Khashoggi was an op-ed contributor to the Washington Post, which on Thursday published his final piece. In it, he warned of the stifling of free expression in the Arab world.

He wrote, “The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar.”