US House to probe Trump ties to Saudi over response to Khashoggi murder

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo taken on May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump (R) and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud take part in a bilateral meeting in Riyadh. (Photo by AFP)

The US House of Representatives is set to take a “deep dive” into US President Donald Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia, following his response to the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The House intelligence committee will launch the investigation once the new Democratic-dominated House assembles in January, California Representative Adam Schiff, who is in line to become head of the committee, told the Washington Post in an interview published Friday.

Trump has refused to pressure Saudi Arabia to be accountable over the killing of Khashoggi, arguing that doing so would hurt political and financial relations with the traditional Middle East ally.

A US green card holder and a columnist for the Post, Khashoggi was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh eventually admitted that the journalist was indeed murdered. However, it denied evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had anything to do with the apparent hit job.

Even after it was reported that the CIA was in possession of recordings that incriminated MBS, Trump stood by the young prince and referred further question to the spying agency.

“Certainly we will be delving further into the murder of Khashoggi,” Schiff told the Post. “We will certainly want to examine what the intelligence community knows about the murder.”

In addition to examining the CIA’s findings, the lawmakers would also see whether Trump’s private financial dealings with Riyadh influenced his response as president.

“There are a whole set of potential financial conflicts of interest and emoluments problems that Congress will need to get to the bottom of,” Schiff said. “If foreign investment in the Trump businesses is guiding US policy in a way that’s antithetical to the country’s interests, we need to find out.”

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Trump, who still owns his business despite relinquishing day-to-day control to his children, told a rally during the campaign days that he had made “hundreds of millions” of dollars from Saudi purchases.

The president argues that going after Saudi Arabia for issues like Khashoggi and the Riyadh regime’s war on Yemen hurts his $110bn arms deal with the Saudis and pushes them towards Russia.

Trump has regularly attacked Schiff, calling him “little Adam Schitt” in a tweet earlier this month.

Schiff told the Post that the “deep dive on Saudi Arabia” would also look at “the war in Yemen,” at “how stable is the House of Saud” is and how “the kingdom is treating its critics or members of the press generally.”

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