White House adviser Jared Kushner said Monday he had counseled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be “fully transparent” with a probe into the murder of a journalist that has rattled the kingdom’s ties with the West.
Kushner told CNN the administration of US President Donald Trump was still working to establish the facts surrounding Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Asked by CNN’s Van Jones what his advice has been to Prince Mohammed, Kushner replied: “Just to be transparent. To be fully transparent. The world is watching.”
Kushner added that he told the crown prince, who faces accusations that he ordered the killing, “to take this very seriously.”
Asked if he thought the Saudis could be trusted to undertake their own investigation into Khashoggi’s killing, Kushner answered that “as an administration, we’re more in the fact-finding phase.”
“We’re getting as many facts as we can,” Kushner said, “then we’ll determine which facts are credible… and what actions we think we should take.”
The son of King Salman has developed close ties with the Trump White House, and especially with Kushner, since becoming crown prince last year, pressing economic, social and religious reforms in the ultraconservative oil superpower.
But the shake-up has been overshadowed by growing global outrage over Khashoggi’s death, with the kingdom’s explanations seen by friends and foes alike as contradictory and evasive.
Meanwhile US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who last week announced he would not attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, has said he is planning on making a stop in the country to discuss efforts to combat terrorist financing.
Mnuchin confirmed his visit to Riyadh while in Israel during his first stop on a six-country Middle East tour. Mnuchin will spend a week in the region. In addition to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Mnuchin is scheduled to visit Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, and Kuwait.
Last Thursday, Mnuchin announced that he would not attend an investment conference scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia from October 23 to October 25. Mnuchin’s announcement came after a White House meeting with President Donald Trump to discuss the investigation into the death of Khashoggi.
A deserted summit
Saudi Arabia scrambled Monday to prepare for the investment summit after a string of cancellations from global business titans, with Turkey’s threat to reveal the “naked truth” over Khashoggi’s murder casting a fresh shadow.
Starting on Tuesday, the three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) was meant to project the historically insular petro-state as a lucrative business destination as it seeks to diversify and set the stage for new ventures and multi-billion dollar contracts.
But the summit, nicknamed “Davos in the desert,” has been overshadowed by growing global outrage over the murder of Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
The chief executive of German industrial conglomerate Siemens Joe Kaeser was the latest among dozens of global executives to withdraw from the summit, hosted by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund.
“It’s the cleanest decision but not the most courageous one,” Kaeser wrote in a post on social network LinkedIn of his choice not to attend FII.
“For now, the truth must be found and justice must be served.”
Ministers from the United States, Britain and France, which have huge defense deals at stake with Saudi Arabia, have already pulled out of the summit.
Corporate honchos from JP Morgan to carmaker Ford and ride-hailing app Uber, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg, CNN and the Financial Times have also scrapped plans to attend.
Organizers have taken down a list of speakers from its website and on Monday refused to confirm the number of attendees.
One government source said the list of speakers and moderators was not yet finalized as many continued to drop out at a “rapid pace.”