Mnuchin meets with Saudi crown prince amid Khashoggi crisis

Mnuchin meets with Saudi crown prince amid Khashoggi crisis
© Anna Moneymaker

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia amid an ongoing international crisis over the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

The Saudi Foreign Ministry tweeted a photo of the two men with a caption touting "the importance of Saudi-US strategic partnership." 

Mnuchin's spokesman Tony Sayegh in a statement to The Washington Post confirmed the meeting. He said the two men discussed the Saudi investigation into Khashoggi's killing, sanctions against regional power Iran, and combating terrorism financing. 

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to The Hill's requests for comment. 

Mnuchin was scheduled to meet with Middle Eastern leaders in Riyadh to discuss terror financing, but it was not previously reported that he would be meeting with the crown prince. 

The Treasury secretary on Monday said Saudi Arabia's initial explanation of Khashoggi's death was "a good first step but not enough." He said it is too soon to discuss sanctions against the kingdom over the incident, Reuters reported.  

Mnuchin pulled out of a Saudi investment conference happening this week but agreed to visit Saudi Arabia for the terrorism finance meeting as part of a trip to the Middle East. He has posted photos on social media from his travels to Israel and Jordan but has not yet posted about his meeting with the crown prince, the Post noted. 

Saudi Arabia over the weekend released an official account of Khashoggi's death, claiming he was killed in a chokehold during a brawl in Istanbul's Saudi consulate with 15 "rogue" Saudi agents operating without the government's authorization.

This explanation has been met with widespread skepticism, as U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials claim it is unlikely that Salman could have been unaware of the operation. Most of the suspects associated with Khashoggi's death were members of Salman's security team. 

Many have also cast doubt on the claim that the journalist's death was not premeditated. One of the Saudis present is an autopsy expert and according to Turkish officials, the killers used a bonesaw to dismember Khashoggi's body.

The Trump administration has faced backlash over its willingness to accept Saudi denials of involvement. 

Trump, White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPresident tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE and other top officials have emphasized that oil-rich Saudi Arabia is a strategic U.S. ally in the Middle East. Kushner during an event on Monday said they are "critical" to providing a unified front against Iran. 

Saudi Arabia is the U.S.'s No. 2 oil supplier, and the kingdom last year pledged to buy $110 billion in arms from the U.S.