President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday to have “no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.” Yet in his own telling, he has reaped plenty of benefits from the massively wealthy Saudi royal family.
Seeking to rebut claims his own ties to the Kingdom may be clouding his assessment of Riyadh’s involvement in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump tweeted Tuesday morning: “For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”
There are no Trump Hotels or Trump golf courses in Saudi Arabia. But in the days before he became President, Trump was not shy about touting the millions of dollars he’d earned from Saudi customers.
“I get along great with all of them,” Trump said of the Saudis at a 2015 campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”
One instance – albeit far less lucrative than Trump’s own telling – came in June 2001, when he sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million, according to a publicly filed deed for the transaction.
Six years later, the Saudis received permission from the New York City Department of Buildings to combine the residential units into a single space to house the Saudi Mission to the United Nations, public records show. The embassy’s website lists the mission’s address at a different location.
More recently, Saudis have been reliable customers at Trump Hotels when traveling in the United States. At the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which has served as something of an unofficial headquarters for foreign governments in the Trump era, a lobbying firm for Saudi Arabia paid the hotel more than $270,000 between October 2016 and March 2017.
The Washington Post also reported Trump Hotels in New York and Chicago have benefited from a rush of visitors from Saudi Arabia in recent months.
The President, who has no public events on his schedule Tuesday, is facing a crisis with a top US security partner. Saudi Arabia initially denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But sources have told CNN that the kingdom is preparing to blame Khashoggi’s death, which occurred in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, on an interrogation gone wrong.
Trump has ruled out halting billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, deeming them essential for US jobs. The President said Monday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would decide by Friday whether to follow the lead of top bank executives and investors and withdraw from a high-profile economic conference scheduled for next week in Riyadh.
Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet on Tuesday in the Saudi capital with King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump himself spoke with the King on Monday.
This story has been updated.