Background Briefing: October 16, 2018


Trump’s Long and Deep Financial Ties to the Saudis

We begin with President Trump’s denial in a tweet today claiming he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia for that matter) which flies in the face of the many statements he made on the campaign trail boasting about how much money he was making out of the Saudis and that he liked them very much. Carolyn Kenney, a senior policy analyst for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress joins us to discuss her new report, “Trump’s Conflicts of Interest in Saudi Arabia” and the large number of Saudi-related LLC’s Trump listed in his May 2016 financial disclosure. We go back to Trump’s earlier dealing with Saudi Prince Alaweed bin Talal who gave Trump an infusion of desperately needed cash when he bought Trump’s yacht in 1991 after he was forced to surrender it to creditors and then again in 1995 when lenders made him sell the Plaza Hotel. Talal bought the Plaza for less than Trump paid for it years earlier. It seems to be hardly a coincidence that Prince Alaweed bin Talal who Trump took frequent jabs at on Twitter, was one of the names on a classified U.S. Intelligence list of critics of the Saudi Crown Prince that Jared Kushner is reported to have given MBS. One of the richest Saudis, Alaweed bin Talal was arrested by MBS, tortured and forced to give over a considerable chunk of his fortune to Jared and Trump’s friend MBS who now stands accused of murdering and butchering a Saudi-American journalist with The Washington Post.


Is Erdogan Angling for a Pay-Off or Is He Bluffing?

Then finally we examine the possibility that Turkey’s President Erdogan is angling for a big pay-off from the Saudis to make this embarrassing matter go away or that he is bluffing and does not have the evidence of the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi that has been leaked to the press in tantalizing snippets for the last week. Henri Barkey, who served as a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and is the author fo “Reluctant Neighbor: Turkey’s Role in the Middle East”, joins us to discuss his hunch that Erdogan does not have the evidence the Turks have promised.


What Kind of a Deal Is Pompeo Making Between the Saudis and the Turks

Then finally we speak with Aaron Stein, a resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. An expert on Turkey, he joins us to discuss the extent to which President Trump is orchestrating the Saudi denial and cover-up following Trump’s announcement today that MBS told him in a phone call that he “totally denied any knowledge” of what happened to Khashoggi and that the Crown Prince wants “a full and complete investigation into this matter”. We  assess what kind of a deal Secretary of State Pompeo is making as he heads to Turkey tomorrow after talks with the Saudi leadership.