FACT CHECK: Does Trump Have No Financial Interests In Saudi Arabia?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

President Donald Trump claimed on Twitter that he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!” he said Oct. 16.

Verdict: True

Trump has no investments in Saudi Arabia, but he has done business with the Saudis over the years.

Fact Check:

Before Trump became president, he stepped down from the Trump Organization, a conglomerate of roughly 500 businesses that operate globally. He retains ownership and a financial stake in the company despite claims by some that this could lead to conflicts of interest.

The issue came to the forefront in the wake of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, as some speculated that Trump’s cautious response to Khashoggi’s death may be linked to his financial interests in the country.

“I’m very concerned that U.S. national security policy is for sale and that the business connection between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family may explain why this administration has been so soft on the Saudis throughout the past two years, but especially the past week,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told Business Insider.

Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats, including Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy and Elizabeth Warren, signed a letter calling for the president to release more information about his company’s potential business dealings with Saudi Arabia, citing “significant concerns about financial conflicts of interest.”

But The Daily Caller News Foundation could find no instances in which the Trump Organization has had business investments in Saudi Arabia.

“Like many global real estate companies, we have explored opportunities in many markets, that said, we do not have any plans for expansion into Saudi Arabia,” a Trump Organization spokesperson told TheDCNF in a statement.

This statement is supported by Trump’s financial disclosure reports. The documents show that there were eight Trump businesses with the name “Jeddah”, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia, in their title at one point, but all were inactive by Nov. 15, 2016.

Eric Trump, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, reiterated his father’s tweet during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.

“There’s zero investments in Russia. There’s zero investments in Saudi. We have absolutely nothing to do with those countries,” he told the hosts.

While Trump doesn’t currently have any interests in Saudi Arabia, he has frequently done business with the Saudis.

Trump sold a yacht to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 1991 for $20 million, and Alwaleed was one of multiple investors who bought Trump’s Plaza Hotel for $325 million in 1995. A decade later, Trump sold an entire floor of the Trump World Tower in Manhattan to the Saudi government for $4.5 million.

More recently, the Trump Organization has profited from Saudi stays at its hotels in the U.S.

WaPo reported that Trump’s luxury hotel in Chicago has seen a 169 percent increase in Saudi stays in 2018 compared to the same period in 2016, and the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan received a 13 percent revenue increase in room rentals for the first three months of 2018 after a five-day visit by associates of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

A public relations firm working for the Saudi government also spent $270,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, as reported by The Daily Caller.

The attorneys general from D.C. and Maryland to filed a lawsuit against Trump in June 2017 alleging that foreign payments to his D.C. hotel constitute a violation of the Emoluments Clause, a section of the constitution which states that no person holding office may accept gifts or payments from any foreign government without the consent of Congress.

“It’s unprecedented that the American people must question day after day whether decisions are made or actions are taken to benefit the United States or to benefit President Trump,” Democratic Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a news conference.

The Trump Organization has pushed back on the notion that any of these dealings have had political underpinnings.

“The renting of a hotel room from one of the Trump businesses is not correlated to President Trump’s performance of the duties of the Office of President,” Bobby Burchfield, an ethics lawyer for the Trump Organization, argued in the Texas Review of Law and Politics. “The Trump businesses rented hotel rooms before the President took office, and presumably they will do so after he leaves office, just as they are doing while he is in office. Those transactions are not derived from his performance of the Office of President.”

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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