Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference

Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: House Dem says marijuana banking bill will get vote in spring | Buttigieg joins striking Stop & Shop workers | US home construction slips in March | Uber gets B investment for self-driving cars Former Sears holding company sues ex-CEO, Mnuchin and others over 'asset stripping' On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost MORE announced Thursday that he will pull out of a major economic conference being hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next week in Riyadh, amid tension over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

“Just met with @realDonaldTrumpand @SecPompeo and we have decided, I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia,” Mnuchin tweeted Thursday morning.

Mnuchin announced his decision after meeting with President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS downplays North Korea's saber rattling Overnight Defense: Pompeo rejects North Korean call for him to leave negotiations | Trump talk with rebel Libyan general raises eyebrows | New setback to Taliban talks The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems face tricky balancing act after Mueller report MORE, the latter of whom returned Wednesday from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he met with members of the royal family.

The decision for Mnuchin to skip the conference is the toughest signal the administration has given against Saudi Arabia and comes after nearly a week of speculation over whether he would go to Riyadh. 

He had come under pressure in recent days from Republican members of the Foreign Relations Committee to skip the conference after the disappearance of Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi journalist who was a frequent contributor to The Washington Post.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (R-Ariz.) reiterated his opposition to Mnuchin attending the conference, which had been dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” tweeting Thursday, “This is not a close call, Secretary Mnuchin. Don’t go to Riyadh.”

A large group of prominent CEOs have already announced they’re skipping the event, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Diamond, Ford Chairman Bill Ford, MasterCard CEO Aya Banga and several prominent investment chiefs such as Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone and Larry Fink of Blackrock.

Another Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Senate GOP proposes constitutional amendment to keep Supreme Court at 9 seats MORE (Ind.), urged Mnuchin last week to skip the conference, warning it would send a "counterproductive message," and Republican Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) said Wednesday that Mnuchin's attendance would not be appropriate. 

Mnuchin had wrestled for days with the decision about whether to attend the conference, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 23. 

He was initially expected to announce his decision by Friday but then the timing was moved up to Thursday after he came under increasing pressure from Republicans and Democrats. 

On Wednesday, twelve House Democrats led by Rep. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements New Jersey Dems tell Pentagon not to use military funds for border wall Nielsen testifies: Five things you need to know MORE (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Mnuchin warning him “we cannot continue to turn a blind eye for the convenience of short-term economic gains from arms agreements.” 

Trump over the weekend touted a pending arms sale to Saudi Arabia as a major potential boost to the U.S. economy, predicting it could support as many as 450,000 jobs. 

White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerNadler: I don't understand why Mueller didn't charge Donald Trump Jr., others in Trump Tower meeting Trump Tower meeting: A shining example of what not to investigate Impeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent MORE, Trump’s son-in-law, has cultivated a relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed, and the administration sees Saudi Arabia as important to managing the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and balancing Iran’s influence in the region.