As new evidence emerges that Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, lawmakers and ethics watchdogs said Thursday that President Donald Trump's reluctance to hold the Saudis responsible for Khashoggi's possible murder is exactly what they've warned about when calling attention to Trump's refusal to divest from his businesses—which, according to the president himself, Saudis have invested tens of millions of dollars over the years.
Saudi officials, along with other international political figures, have stayed in Trump's hotels since he took office in 2017, with lobbyists from Saudi Arabia spending $270,000 in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. last year alone.
"Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them," Trump said in 2015. "They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."
The Saudis also have a long history of business dealings with Trump, including a Saudi prince's purchase of a yacht and a hotel from him in the 1990s when the real estate developer was in need of money. But Democrats in Congress and the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have especially expressed concern with his financial entanglements with the kingdom after he took office, saying they blatantly violate the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause.
On Twitter, CREW suggested that Saudi Arabia's status as a loyal customer to the Trump Organization—from which the president refused to divest after taking office—has likely been on Trump's mind this week as he's told the press that he won't consider sanctioning or condemning the Saudis over Khashoggi's disappearance.
#tbt to Trump’s hotel in DC receiving $270,000 in payments linked to Saudi Arabia in late 2016 through early 2017. Is Trump going to think about all that money when he makes foreign policy decisions? https://t.co/RatdpFxNGR
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) October 11, 2018
We shouldn’t have to ask if the president’s foreign policy is being dictated by his business interests.
We have to ask if the president’s foreign policy is being dictated by his business interests. https://t.co/UaPNOk6wFD
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) October 12, 2018
Trump's ongoing business relationship with the Saudis—including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS, whose visit to the president's hotel in New York helped raise its revenues by 13 percent earlier this year—violates the Constitutional clause that forbids the president from receiving gifts or payments from foreign officials.
The Saudi government is funneling $ directly into Trump’s pockets while he refuses to hold them accountable for atrocities.
This is exactly what emoluments clause of Constitution was intended to prevent, & is why presidents should divest from biz interests before taking office. https://t.co/wBHWVMmVZt
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 12, 2018
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) drew attention to Trump's emoluments violations and put it bluntly on Twitter:
The subtext and context for this MBS situation is the emoluments clause of the constitution.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 12, 2018
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed along with 200 other Democratic lawmakers, demanding information on foreign patrons of Trump's businesses, also suggested that the president is too entangled with the Saudis to condemn them for the journalists disappearance—or any other violations.
Is the Saudi gov't purposely filling Trump's pockets? If so, what do they expect in return? We don’t know, because Trump refuses to comply with the Constitution—requiring disclosure & Congressional approval for foreign gov't benefits. I’m fighting in court to hold him accountable https://t.co/SOamlzkDq4
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) October 10, 2018