Jake Tapper: Are US leaders getting played?

CNN's Jake Tapper discusses missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi and President Trump's defense of Saudi Arabia.

Posted: Oct 18, 2018 9:25 AM
Updated: Oct 18, 2018 9:37 AM

Saudi Arabia's big investment conference is losing more high-profile guests as the international crisis over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi intensifies.

The latest to drop out are the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and the heads of two major French banks.

The Saudi event, known as "Davos in the desert," has suffered an exodus of global business leaders, including the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Uber, in the past week as questions have mounted over the fate of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government.

The IMF said in a statement late Tuesday that Managing Director Christine Lagarde's trip to the Middle East for the conference next week "is being deferred."

It's an abrupt change of position from Lagarde, who said as recently as Saturday that she still planned to speak at the event in Riyadh despite being horrified by reports about Khashoggi's disappearance.

BNP Paribas (BNPQY), France's largest bank by assets, said Wednesday that Chairman Jean Lemierre will no longer attend. Société Générale (SCGLY) CEO Fréderic Oudéa also dropped out Wednesday. Both were listed as speakers as recently as last week.

Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal court insider who contributed to The Washington Post, hasn't been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Turkish officials have told CNN he was killed inside the consulate. Saudi authorities have so far maintained that Khashoggi left the consulate the same day he went in, but they have provided no evidence to support the claim.

Lagarde said Saturday that her job is "to conduct the business of the IMF in all corners of the world, and with many governments." But she added that she would "be very attentive to the information that is coming out" in the next few days.

The IMF didn't immediately respond late Tuesday to a request for further comment about her change of plans.

The Saudi conference, officially titled the Future Investment Initiative, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious plan to revamp the country's oil-dependent economy.

Earlier Tuesday, the CEOs of top European banks HSBC (HSBC), Credit Suisse (CS) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) all pulled out of the event, as did the head of the London Stock Exchange (LNSTY).

Most of the event's international media partners, including CNN, withdrew their support last week.

Will Mnuchin and others still go?

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is among the high-profile figures who have said they still expect to attend the Saudi conference.

But President Donald Trump on Monday opened the door to the possibility that Mnuchin may withdraw, telling reporters that "we haven't made a decision about going yet." He said a final call would be made by Friday.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers from the G7 nations, including the United States, issued a statement saying they "remain very troubled by the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

"Those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi must be held to account," the statement said. "We encourage Turkish-Saudi collaboration and look forward to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducting a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation."

Business leaders who have said they still plan to go to the Saudi conference include Joe Kaeser, the CEO of German engineering conglomerate Siemens (SIEGY), and Jean-Bernard Lévy, the CEO of French energy company EDF.

Japanese tech group SoftBank (SFTBF) has failed to respond to repeated requests for comment about the attendance of several of its senior executives, including CEO and founder, Masayoshi Son. The company has become one of the world's most powerful tech investors, thanks to Saudi money.

SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure said Tuesday at a tech event in California that the company is "anxiously looking at what is happening" in relation to Khashoggi's disappearance, according to Reuters.

"We, like most parties in the world, are watching events unfold," said Claure, who is one of the SoftBank executives scheduled to speak at the Saudi conference. "We are just monitoring."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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