In an apparent effort to push back on suggestions his soft stance toward Saudi Arabia is a result of his business dealings with Saudis, President Trump on Tuesday tweeted, “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)!”
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)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018
Trump’s claim is transparently false. As the Washington Post reported in August, the Saudi regime has been pumping money directly into Trump’s pockets through his hotels.
“After two years of decline, revenue from room rentals [at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan] went up 13 percent in the first three months of 2018,” the Post reported — in large part due to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s patronage of the hotel during a visit to New York City in which he and his entourage didn’t even end up staying there.
Trump wasn’t always so reluctant to acknowledge his business dealings with the Saudis. The month after he launched his presidential campaign, Trump gave a speech in which he boasted that “likes the Saudis” because “I make a lot of money with them” — an admission that directly contradicts what he now claims.
“They buy all sorts of my stuff,”‘ Trump said in July 2015. “All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.”
Here's the video of Trump at his July 2015 rally boasting he makes "a lot of money" to the tune of "hundreds of millions" of dollars selling things to the Saudis and Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/QrjrnF4Hen
— 💀andrew👻kaczynski🎃 (@KFILE) October 16, 2018
Trump’s claim that he has no financial interests in Russia is also false. In 2008, Donald Trump Jr., speaking at a real estate conference on behalf of the Trump Organization, admitted that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Of course, if Trump wanted to definitively prove that he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia or Russia, he could release his tax returns. But the president who broke precedent by refusing to divest from his business interests when he took office has steadfastly refused to do so, despite promising he would during his campaign.
Trump’s relationship with the Saudis has come under renewed scrutiny following the disappearance of Virginia resident, Washington Post columnist, and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who hasn’t been seen after he entered a Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2.
Despite the Saudi regime’s apparent responsibility for the murder, Trump has repeatedly downplayed it, citing Khashoggi’s non-citizen status and the fact that his disappearance occurred in a far-away country. On Monday, the president went as far as to suggest without any evidence that “rogue killers” may have actually been responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
Through Trump hasn’t acknowledged that his own financial interests play a role in his soft stance toward the Saudis, he has repeatedly dismissed the idea of imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia by citing the fact the regime is spending billions of dollars on American military equipment — indicating that for him, the economic relationship is more important than human rights.