By Jordan Fabian
President Trump on Tuesday pushed back on speculation he has not punished Saudi Arabia for the disappearance of a U.S.-based journalist due to financial conflicts of interest, calling it “FAKE NEWS.”
“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he tweeted. “Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”
Trump for years has had business ties to the Saudis, with one Saudi royal billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, purchasing his yacht and a stake in New York’s Plaza Hotel in the 1990s when the former business mogul was in financial distress.
The prince was one of those imprisoned earlier this year as part of an anti-corruption campaign led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. He was later released.
Trump’s relationships in Saudi Arabia have come under scrutiny as lawmakers and foreign governments have called for a tough U.S. response to Riyadh after the disappearance and possible death of Jamal Khashoggi, who was a critic of the Saudi government and a U.S. resident.
Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials have suggested he may have been killed and dismembered, and no footage has been released of him leaving the consulate.
Trump in the past has talked about his business dealings with Saudi Arabia, and he has hailed arms deals worth $110 billion with the kingdom in recent days.
“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me,” he said at a campaign rally in 2015 in Alabama. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
Trump has all but ruled out canceling or suspending arms deals in response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“I actually think we’d be punishing ourselves if we did that,” the president said Saturday. “There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong. And we’ll do that.”
A bipartisan group of senators has triggered a law that could lead to sanctions against any Saudis who are found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s fate.