Trump claims he has 'no financial interests in Saudi Arabia' — but he makes lots of money from it

  • President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia" — but in fact he has boasted in the past that "I make a lot of money with them."
  • Trump has sold apartments and a yacht for millions of dollars to Saudis, and recent decreases in bookings in his New York and Chicago properties since he has been president have been offset, to some extent, by business from Saudi customers.
  • Trump's tweet denying a financial stake in Saudi Arabia comes amid a growing furor over suspicions that the country's rulers ordered the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
President Donald Trump holds a chart of military hardware sales as he welcomes Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump holds a chart of military hardware sales as he welcomes Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia" — but in fact he has boasted in the past that "I make a lot of money with them."

Trump's tweet denying a financial stake in Saudi Arabia comes amid a growing furor over suspicions that the country's rulers ordered the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the consulate.

The Saudi government is discussing a plan to admit that The Washington Post contributor was killed after entering that building, according to NBC News, which cited multiple sources. But that admission, NBC News said, could include a claim that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not order the killing or know if it.

Trump's attempt to distance himself from profiting from Saudi Arabia is undercut by a long record showing deals his companies made with that country's government and citizens.

"Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million," Trump said during a presidential campaign rally in Alabama in August 2015.

"Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

At another rally that year, Trump said of the Saudis, "I make a lot of money from them."

"They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundred of millions."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC on Trump's tweet and his past comments about earnings from Saudis.

When he first announced his bid for the White House in Trump Tower in New York in 2015, Trump said, "I love the Saudis."

"Many are in this building."

In another Trump-owned building in the Big Apple, Trump World Tower, the Saudi government had bought an entire floor for $4.5 million in 2001.

The New York Daily News reported in 2016 that common charges for that floor paid by the Saudis to Trump's company would have been at least $5.7 million if those charges remained the same as they were when the floor was bought.

Thirteen years before that purchase, Trump himself had paid a reported $29 million for a 281-foot yacht, the Nabila, which had been originally built for Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer, but was owned by the Sultan of Brunei at the time of Trump's purchase. Khashoggi, now dead, was a cousin to Jamal Khashoggi.

In 1991, while going through what was one of a series of financial squeezes in his career as a real estate mogul and casino operator, Trump sold the big boat, since renamed "Trump Princess," to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. And he sold it at a loss: $20 million.

More recently, as president, Saudi money has again benefited Trump.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that revenue at the Trump hotel on the West Side of Manhattan had increased after two straight years of revenue drops.

The general manager of that hotel, which Trump's company manages, but does not own, informed investors that revenue in the first quarter of 2018 jumped due in part to "a last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia," according to the Post.

While the prince himself did not stay at the hotel, "due to our close industry relationships, we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers," the manager reportedly wrote.

Earlier this month, the Post reported that bookings at the Trump hotel in Chicago dropped 8 percent from 2015 to 2016, and that bookings this year are 3.5 percent lower than what they were in 2016. But the decrease was offset, to a certain degree, by business from the Saudis, the paper added.

Citing a document issued to investors in the hotel, the Post said that "Saudi-based customers had booked 218 nights at Trump Chicago this year — a 169 percent increase from the same period in 2016."