For President Trump, Saudi Arabia is not just a political ally. It has also been a customer.
Trump’s business relationships with the Saudi government — and rich Saudi business executives — go back to at least the 1990s. In Trump’s hard times, a Saudi prince bought a superyacht and hotel from him. The Saudi government paid him $4.5 million for an apartment near the United Nations.
Business from Saudi-connected customers continued to be important after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors.
Now, Trump’s administration is trying to get answers from Saudi leaders about the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — a critic of the Saudi regime who was allegedly abducted, and possibly killed, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week. The crisis has brought scrutiny to Trump’s business ties with the Saudis — and the complexity they add to an already complicated U.S. relationship with the kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump told a crowd at an Alabama campaign rally in 2015. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” [Continue reading…]