U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Wall Street bankers will show up at an elite Saudi investment conference this month despite a growing exodus of top media companies and business leaders after the disappearance of a Saudi journalist.
Mnuchin’s plan to attend the high-profile Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments that he saw no reason to block Saudi Arabian investments in the United States despite concern over the welfare of Jamal Khashoggi.
“I am planning on going at this point. If more information comes out and changes, we can look at that, but I am planning on going,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.
In a letter to Trump, the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said Mnuchin should cancel plans to attend the conference unless Saudi Arabia fully discloses what it knows about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“We urge you to use all pressure necessary to encourage greater Saudi cooperation in the investigation into this incident,” said the committee’s chairman, Republican Ed Royce, and its top Democrat, Eliot Engel.
Pressure has mounted on U.S. ally Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policies, went missing. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate. Riyadh has said the claims are baseless.
CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times, CNBC and Bloomberg, as well as reporters and editors from the Economist, said they were no longer participating in the conference, which relies heavily on journalists to moderate top sessions.
CNBC and Bloomberg, along with Fox Business Network, were among media partners with a big role at the event, which begins on Oct. 23.
Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, U.S. mass media conglomerate Viacom Inc CEO Bob Bakish and billionaire Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, said they were no longer going. Entrepreneur Arianna Huffington will also not participate and has resigned from the conference advisory board, her company Thrive Global PR said.
The absence of media and technology executives is likely to cast a shadow over the three-day conference, known as “Davos in the desert”, which has become the biggest show for investors to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform vision.
It has attracted some of the world’s business elite, including Wall Street’s top bosses and executives from multinational media, technology and financial services companies.