Saudis are good for Trump’s bottom line, says Hill.TV's Krystal Ball

By Krystal Ball
Opinion Contributor

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to temporarily withdraw some embassy personnel in Baghdad: report Pompeo to host indoor holiday parties at State Department despite warning to employees to hold some missions virtually The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Pressure builds as UK approves COVID-19 vaccine MORE landed in Riyadh, and on the same day 100 million in Saudi cash landed in the American treasury, a long promised payout for American efforts in Syria. Huh. What a coincidence.

Make no mistake about it, the Saudis understand the power of the all mighty dollar.

And so too, does our President.

“They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” That’s what then-candidate Trump told a crowd about his feelings on Saudi Arabia.

At another rally he told the crowd: “I make a lot of money from them. They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.”

In other words, the Saudis are good for Trump’s bottom line and that’s all that really counts.

A lot has changed since then. Candidate Trump is, of course, now President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE and an international crisis has erupted over the Saudi’s killing of a Washington Post journalist. But for the president, it’s still all about the money.

There is no other explanation for his otherwise inexplicable reluctance to accept what is plainly obvious: Jamal Khashoggi was brazenly murdered at the hands of the Saudis and at the direction of Crown Prince MBS. As Sen. Lindsay Graham bluntly put it: “Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it…He had this guy murdered in a consulate.”

MBS has been a master of virtue signaling, granting token rights to drive to women and opening movie theaters while at the same time jailing the very activists who pushed for those rights, extorting hundreds of millions from wealthy Saudis and conducting an absolute crackdown on dissent.

The Saudis have been able to maintain global acceptance in the face of this disgusting cesspool of corruption and human rights abuses through a steady stream of cash. The Crown Prince has bet that he can use his millions to get away with murder. Under this president, he just may be right.

Krystal Ball is the co-host of "Rising," Hill.TV's morning news show.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill.