Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference

Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Graham clash over Iran policy Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran 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 TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran Trump doubles down on Graham: 'How did going into Iraq work out?' 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 FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  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 YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess 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 ColemanDemocrats seize on viral Sharpie hashtags to mock Trump map edit Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 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's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration 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.