US Senator accuses Trump of being too 'soft' on Saudi Arabia because of his business ties to the kingdom

  • Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said he was concerned that President Donald Trump’s “soft” response to the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was linked to Trump’s business ties to Saudi Arabia.
  • “I think the Saudis believe they have a blank check from this presidency,” Murphy told Business Insider.
  • Khashoggi, a Saudi national who has often been critical of the Saudi royal family in his reporting, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said he was “very concerned” that President Donald Trump’s “soft” response to the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was linked to the Trump family’s business ties to the kingdom.

“I think the Saudis believe they have a blank check from this presidency,” Murphy told Business Insider on Wednesday. “I don’t understand why there’s such a close relationship between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family.”

Murphy said there “may be some business interests” that explain the warm relationship.

“I’m very concerned that US national security policy is for sale and that the business connection between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family may explain why this administration has been so soft on the Saudis throughout the past two years, but especially the past week,” the Connecticut senator added.

Trump has been doing business with the Saudis for years and once bragged about it during a rally

Trump on Tuesday attempted to downplay his business ties to the Saudis.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” Trump tweeted. “Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”

But the president’s tweet didn’t paint a complete picture.

The Trump Organisation does not have any buildings in Saudi Arabia, but the president’s businesses have accepted substantial amounts of money from the Saudi government.

As Business Insider’s Bob Bryan reported:

  • Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal purchased Trump’s 282-foot yacht, Princess, for $US20 million in 1991 (Trump was nearing bankruptcy at the time) and was part of a group that purchased the financially troubled Plaza Hotel for $US325 million in 1995.
  • In 2016, the New York Daily News reported that the Saudi government also purchased the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower for $US4.5 million in June 2001. Given annual fee fares for the building at the time, Trump also was paid $US5.7 million by the Saudis between the purchase and 2016, according to the paper.
  • Trump also boasted about his business dealings with the Saudis during a 2015 campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama. “I get along great with all of them; they buy apartments from me,” Trump said at the time. “They spend $US40 million, $US50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”
  • The Washington Post reported in August that a “last-minute visit” from Saudi officials to the president’s Trump International Hotel in New York City helped boost the hotel’s quarterly revenue from room rentals by 13% in 2018’s first quarter.
  • In addition, a lobbying firm connected to the Saudi government paid $US270,000 to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, between October 2016 and March 2017.

https://twitter.com/KFILE/status/1052193155011960834?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

There are also concerns about Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who has ties to the Saudi crown prince, and his role in Trump’s response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish officials say Khashoggi was killed in a gruesome way

Khashoggi, a Saudi national who has often been critical of the Saudi royal family in his reporting, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October.

Turkish officials have alleged that he was brutally killed.

The Saudis have vehemently denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, but they have provided no evidence in the more than two weeks since he went missing that he safely departed the consulate.

Trump has stood by the Saudis and indicated he doesn’t want to stop US arms sales

The Trump administration’s overall handling of this crisis has been widely criticised.

Trump has repeatedly touted denials from the Saudi royal family while emphasising the importance of US-Saudi relations. The president has also suggested that “rogue killers” could be responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and said the criticism of Saudi Arabia is another case of “guilty until proven innocent.”

There have been bipartisan calls in Congress for economic sanctions to be leveled against the Saudis in response to Khashoggi’s disappearance and for the US to immediately cancel arms sales to the kingdom.

But Trump has said that would be a “tough pill to swallow” and boasted about the billions of dollars in planned arms sales to the Saudis.

Trump on Thursday offered what was perhaps his most forceful statement on the case yet, saying that it “certainly looks” as if Khashoggi is dead.

The president added that if it turns out the Saudis killed him there would have to be “very severe” consequences, without specifying what the repercussions might be.

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