Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference

Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive White House to add two aides to lead impeachment messaging 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 TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIran lays foundation for second nuclear plant: report Pompeo knocks Iran's treatment of UN nuclear inspector Reagan statue unveiled near site where he called for Gorbachev to 'tear down' Berlin Wall 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 FlakeKelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump 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 YoungFormer AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Sessions expected to announce plans to run for Senate Paul blocks vote on House-passed Syria resolution for second time 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 ColemanAllegations of bed bugs at Trump's Doral resort swarm Twitter A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal Democrats seize on viral Sharpie hashtags to mock Trump map edit 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 KushnerHaley: Top Trump aides tried to get me to undermine him Man pleads guilty in plot to attack Cleveland on July 4 Progressives press Democrats to rethink Israel policy 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.