Published 9:57 PM EDT Oct 14, 2018
WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans on attending an investor conference in Saudi Arabia this month despite bipartisan calls for Mnuchin to withdraw over the disappearance of Washington Post contributing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mnuchin intends to go "because of the importance of the issue of ending terrorist financing," Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, told ABC’s "This Week" Sunday.
But "along with the president," Mnuchin will "make up his mind as the week progresses and new information surfaces,” Kudlow added.
Since Khashoggi's disappearance and reports indicating he was tortured then brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, there has been intense pressure for companies to cancel business with the country.
Some business leaders and media companies have pulled out of the investors conference scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Riyadh.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said Sunday that Mnuchin should immediately cancel his trip – as well as cancel a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Some Republicans have also said Mnuchin should not attend the conference.
Indiana Sen. Todd Young, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday that Mnuchin’s presence would "send the erroneous and counterproductive message that all is well in the bilateral relationship."
Saudi Arabia on Sunday denied any involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi and warned that any sanctions against the oil-rich kingdom would be met with "greater action" and possibly exploding oil prices.
The warning came after Trump said Saudi Arabia could face "severe punishment" over Khashoggi.
The president, however, has sent a mixed message. In a Saturday afternoon news conference in the Oval Office, Trump said "we would be punishing ourselves" by canceling the arms sales deal with Saudi Arabia. He said the U.S. was competing against China and Russia for the $110 billion deal.
When asked whether Mnuchin still planned to go to Saudi Arabia, he deferred questions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that "there's not enough money in the world for us to buy back our credibility on human rights" unless the United States takes swift action against Saudi Arabia if they are complicit in Khashoggi's murder.
"I think everyone's waiting to find out exactly what happened," Rubio said on CBS' "Face the Nation."