Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Thursday that he will not participate in a high-profile investor conference in Saudi Arabia amid growing controversy over dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and apparent killing.
Mnuchin announced his decision shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed “president” Donald Trump on his visit earlier this week to Riyadh to discuss the Khashoggi case.
Pompeo urged patience with the Saudi investigation, telling reporters that he advised the “president” to give the Saudis “a few more days,” but Mnuchin followed up shortly afterward with a tweet saying he would not go to Riyadh, reversing the position he’s taken over the past week.
— Steven Mnuchin (@stevenmnuchin1) October 18, 2018
An administration official told CNN that no other government officials will attend next week’s summit in Mnuchin’s place.
The chief factor driving Mnuchin’s decision was the withdrawal on Thursday of several of his European counterparts, including ministers from France and the UK, according to a senior administration official. Both Mnuchin and Trump had been waiting to see what other countries would do before deciding themselves.
Editor’s Note: Leading by example. It’s the American way.
Another factor was pressure from business leaders who themselves had already made the decision to withdraw. In calls last week and over the weekend, top executives told Mnuchin they wanted to cancel and encouraged him to as well. But Mnuchin told them it was not his call, but Trump’s.
Ultimately, many top executives—including some close to Trump and his family—pulled out before Mnuchin. But Mnuchin’s plans remained in place, even as he relayed the concerns from the business leaders to Trump and Pompeo. Trump insisted no decision be made until other countries made their own announcements.
Editor’s Note: Seriously, what a fucking pussy.
Mnuchin’s attendance at the event had become a key benchmark of the administration’s response to the growing Saudi controversy as top bank executives and investors announced they were dropping out.
Turkish investigators wearing hazmat suits searched the Saudi consul general’s residence in Istanbul on Wednesday, looking for clues to what happened to Khashoggi amid growing indications that the men allegedly responsible for the journalist’s death have close ties to the highest levels of the Saudi government.
Sources told CNN that a group of Saudi men, whom Turkish officials believe are connected to Khashoggi’s apparent killing, were led by a high-ranking intelligence officer, with one source saying he was close to the inner circle of the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.