Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference

Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCharitable giving by individuals down in first year under Trump's tax law: study Charitable giving by individuals down in first year under Trump's tax law: study Congressional leaders, White House officials to meet Wednesday on spending 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 TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Progressive nonprofits sue White House over missing notes from Putin meeting Progressive nonprofits sue White House over missing notes from Putin meeting 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 FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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 YoungOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission 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 ColemanOvernight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules Trump Interior chief says climate change response falls on Congress Interior chief says offshore drilling plan not 'indefinitely sidelined' 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 KushnerDemocrats ask OSC to review whether Kushner violated Hatch Act Democrats ask OSC to review whether Kushner violated Hatch Act Financial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel 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.