The disappearance of a Saudi dissident journalist has put Steven Mnuchin, the United States Treasury secretary, in an increasingly tenuous position as he prepares to attend an investment conference in Riyadh next week.
Several top Wall Street executives have pulled out of the meeting, but as of Monday, Mr. Mnuchin still planned to attend. President Trump, speaking at an event in Georgia, said Mr. Mnuchin would make a final decision on whether to participate by Friday.
The Treasury secretary’s attendance at the investment conference is part of a weeklong, six-country swing through the Middle East that is focused on combating terrorist financing. The trip is crucial to retaining good relations with Saudi Arabia as both countries try to work together to stem illicit financial activities in the Middle East. But Mr. Mnuchin is now wrestling with the ramifications of remaining in the Saudi government’s good stead amid questions about the fate of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
Mr. Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Turkish authorities have alleged that Mr. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives.
The Saudi government has denied any wrongdoing, saying Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after his arrival. However, a person familiar with Saudi plans said Monday that the kingdom was preparing an alternative explanation of the journalist’s fate, saying Mr. Khashoggi died in an interrogation gone wrong.
Mr. Mnuchin’s staff has been closely monitoring the situation and awaiting additional evidence about the fate of Mr. Khashoggi before making a final decision. However, the trip appeared more likely to move forward after Mr. Trump buttressed Saudi denials that it was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, suggesting that “rogue killers” could be to blame, and as he dispatched his secretary of state to meet with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
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