Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference

Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Why Trump can't make up his mind on China 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 TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Amazon backtracks, says email asking employees to delete TikTok was sent in error Amazon asks employees to delete TikTok from mobile devices: report MORE, the latter of whom returned Wednesday from a trip to Saudi Arabia where he met with members of the royal family.

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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 FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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.

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Another Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties Stronger patent rights would help promote US technological leadership 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 ColemanNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman wins Democratic primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Primary Day in New Jersey 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 KushnerTrump: 'Shouldn't be hard' for Kanye West to take away votes from Biden Trump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' On The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan 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.