U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin doesn’t want to let a little alleged state-sponsored extrajudicial murder get in the way of a good time.
Mnuchin told CNBC that later this month he plans to attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh ― a glitzy conference backed by the government of Saudi Arabia ― ignoring calls to skip the event following the suspicious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“We are concerned about what is the status of Mr. Khashoggi,” Mnuchin told CNBC on Friday. “If more information comes out and changes, we could look at that, but I am planning on going.”
Pressed by host Geoff Cutmore to say whether he would recommend that others not attend, Mnuchin again demurred.
“We all want information,” he said, “so let’s wait and see what information comes out in the next week.”
The secretary’s call for more information overlooks increasingly damning evidence, including audio and video recordings, that appear to indicate Saudi agents tortured and dismembered the Washington Post columnist inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sometime on or around Oct. 2.
A U.S. official familiar with the recordings presented Thursday by Turkish officials told The Washington Post, “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
Saudi officials deny the claims.
Khashoggi wrote columns critical of the Saudi government and had been living in exile. He entered the consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain documents that would allow him to get married and hasn’t been seen since.
While Mnuchin balks, others have acted.
Billionaire Richard Branson said Thursday that his Virgin Group was suspending talks with the Saudis regarding a $1 billion investment. AOL founder (and fellow billionaire) Steve Case said he would not attend the Future Investment Initiative, as did Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, who was scheduled to speak at the event. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also said he’d skip it “unless a substantially different set of facts emerges.”
The Harbour Group, a Washington lobbying and consulting firm, confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that it had “terminated” its $80,000-a-month advisory contract with the Saudis.
Numerous high-profile media companies have also withdrawn from the conference, including The New York Times and The Economist, both of which were media sponsors.