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Democrats will investigate President Donald Trump's financial ties to Saudi Arabia as part of a "deep dive" on the kingdom when majority control of the House changes hands in January, the lawmaker in line to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said in a Washington Post interview published Friday.
"There are a whole set of potential financial conflicts of interest and emoluments problems that Congress will need to get to the bottom of," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told Greg Sargent, a liberal columnist for the paper. "Certainly if foreign investment in the Trump businesses is guiding U.S. policy in a way that's antithetical to the country's interests, we need to find out about it."
Trump has repeatedly said he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia, but he has also boasted about making millions of dollars from the Saudis. Indeed, business from Saudi-based customers helped buoy revenue this year at Trump namesake hotels in New York and Chicago, according to a Washington Post report.
A spokesman for Schiff did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for further comment on the lawmaker's interview with the Post. A representative for the White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schiff's statements.
Schiff's remarks on his party's plans to investigate Trump's ties to the Saudis came amid the president's response to the death of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family who was killed inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October.
Multiple outlets reported last week that the CIA concluded with high confidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. But Trump, in a lengthy, combative statement Tuesday that was full of political slogans and exclamation points, asserted that the U.S. stands with Saudi Arabia as a crucial ally as the Trump administration pursues its economic and national security goals.
On the question of whether the crown prince knew in advance about the slaying, Trump said: "Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"
The president appeared to go even further to defend the young Saudi leader on Wednesday, telling reporters outside his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that the crown prince "denies it vehemently." Trump added: "I hate the crime, I hate the cover-up. I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do."
Saudi Arabia initially insisted that Khashoggi, who had entered the consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2 and was never seen outside it again, had left voluntarily shortly after he arrived. But as the evidence mounted — and a crescendo of criticism from international leaders intensified — the kingdom eventually admitted that Khashoggi had been killed, calling it "an unfortunate accident. "
To be sure, the Trump administration on Nov. 15 announced sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against 17 people alleged to have been involved in the killing.
Schiff told the Post's Sargent that the Intelligence Committee will be looking into what U.S. intelligence services know about Khashoggi's death, as well as Trump's response to it. Schiff said House committees will probe Trump's international financial ties with Saudi Arabia and other nations — although it is yet unclear which committees will take on what tasks.
The lawmaker said the "deep dive" on Saudi Arabia will also touch on the U.S. relationship to the kingdom in general, as well as the Saudi-led war in Yemen and the stability of the Saudi royal family.
Schiff is one of Trump's most prominent critics on Capitol Hill and in the media, as well as one of the most vocal defenders of special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He is poised to lead the Intelligence Committee as chairman when the next Congress convenes Jan. 3.
Schiff has already signaled his intention to revive and expand the panel's own probe of Russian election meddling, which Democrats claim was prematurely concluded by the Republican majority. The Intelligence Committee's investigation, led by staunch Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., found "no evidence" of coordination between Trump's 2016 campaign and the Kremlin.