WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.) wrote to President Donald Trump and to the Trump Organization seeking a full accounting of any financial ties between the Trump Organization and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The senators’ letters follow the disappearance and reported killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a resident of the United States and Washington Post journalist, whose whereabouts have been unknown since he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2nd.
A bipartisan group of twenty-two senators recently triggered an investigation and a Global Magnitsky Act determination relating to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible murder.
“It is imperative that this sanctions determination, and U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia generally, are not influenced by any conflicts of interest that may exist because of your or your family’s deep financial ties to Saudi Arabia,” 11 Democratic senators wrote in today’s letter to the president.
In their letter, the senators seek responses to a series of questions and requests for documents by November 17, 2018, including: documents pertaining to financial transfers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Trump Organization over the last 10 years; information about discussions surrounding potential business deals involving Saudi Arabia and the Trump Organization; and information about any potential gifts provided to the president by Saudi nationals.
The senators asked the president to commit to suspending ongoing business relationships with Saudi Arabia until the Magnitsky investigation is complete, and to terminate any business relationships if the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is found to have murdered or abducted Mr. Khashoggi.
On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted: “For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter).” But as the senators note in their letter today, “According to public reports, the Trump Organization for decades has maintained business relationships with the government of Saudi Arabia and members of the Saudi royal family.” Such ties are significant because, as the senators write, “Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies, and the source of immense petro-wealth. The wealth acquired from oil and gas is frequently used abroad in pursuit of its political interests.”
The Democratic senators outlined the many public reports indicating longstanding business relationships between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Trump Organization. For instance, in 1995, a Saudi prince led a group of investors that acquired the Trump Plaza Hotel in a deal to pay off debts on the property for $325 million.
The senators stated that the president’s recent statements, as well as public reports of increased spending by the Saudi government at Trump properties, “raise significant concerns about financial conflicts of interest.” At a rally in Mobile, Alabama on August 21, 2015, then candidate-Trump stated: “Saudi Arabia. I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million. $50 million.” The Saudi government has spent substantial sums at three Trump branded hotels in the last two years, since Trump was elected president.