These concerns about Trump’s financial entanglements with Saudi Arabia parallel suspicions about possible financial connections to Russia, which Schiff also promised to investigate, including “whether the Russians have been laundering money through the president’s businesses, and this is the financial hold that the Russians may have. It would certainly explain the otherwise bewildering conduct of the president in Helsinki, many of the president’s pro-Putin comments. It would explain why his sons have said at various times they don’t need money from U.S. banks, they get all the money they need from Russia.”
Schiff, whom Trump called “little Adam Schitt” in a tweet last week, apparently is laying the groundwork to dig into the president’s personal finances more than any other investigator. When the Democrats take control of the House in January, he’ll gain control of the Intelligence Committee’s subpoena power and majority staff. The Daily Beast reported a few days ago that the committee has created positions for “money-laundering and forensic accounting experts.”
Some GOP senators joined Schiff and the Democrats in rejecting Trump’s meek acceptance of Saudi denials as they pressed for tougher punishment.
“I disagree with the president’s assessment. It’s inconsistent with the intelligence I’ve seen,” said Senator Mike Lee, the libertarian-leaning Utahan who was the only non-judge on the president’s short list for the Supreme Court. On NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked whether Lee supported congressional investigations into Trump’s motive for accepting Saudi denials.
“Look, I don’t know why he’s siding with the Saudis. … (But I’m) certain that in the next Congress, people will look into that.” The GOP senator argued for cutting U.S. support for the Saudis’ devastating war in Yemen, pointing to his collaboration with Bernie Sanders on that issue.
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, elected this month to the number five GOP leadership spot, expressed a quieter objection. “I do think we need to look into this further,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union. She highlighted the importance of a strong U.S. ally in the Middle East but added, “We also are a very strong nation when it comes to human rights, when it comes to the rule of law. And if there are indicators that the prince was involved in this murder, then we need to absolutely consider further action.”
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic whom Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona floated as a 2020 primary challenger, said on Fox News Sunday that the president’s statement was “very weak.” Sasse acknowledged the realpolitik case for a tight alliance with the Saudis and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS. But then he said, “Making the realist case is a different thing than being so weak that we failed to tell the truth. MBS contributed to murdering somebody abroad and it is not strength to sort of mumble past that. Strength is telling the truth even when it’s hard.”