‘I love the Saudis’: Donald Trump’s business ties to kingdom run deep
He’s booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York’s Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.
President Donald Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he’s often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom. “I love the Saudis,” Trump said when announcing his presidential run at Trump Tower in 2015. “Many are in this building.” Now those ties are under scrutiny as the president faces calls for a tougher response to the kingdom’s government following the disappearance, and possible killing, of one of its biggest critics, journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The Saudis are funneling money to him,” said former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, who is advising a watchdog group suing Trump for foreign government ties to his business. That undermines “confidence that he’s going to do the right thing when it comes to Khashoggi.”
Trump paid his first foreign visit as president to Saudi Arabia last year, praised its new young ruler and boasted of striking a deal to sell $110 billion of US weapons to the kingdom.
But those close ties are in peril as pressure mounts from Congress for the president to find out whether Khashoggi was killed and dismembered after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey, as Turkish officials have said without proof.
Trump said Friday that he will soon speak with Saudi Arabia’s king about Khashoggi’s disappearance. But he also has said he doesn’t want to scuttle a lucrative arms deal with the kingdom and noted that Khashoggi, a US resident, is not a citizen. For its part, Saudi Arabia has called allegations it killed Khashoggi “baseless.”
The president’s links to Saudi billionaires and princes go back years and appear to have only deepened.