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Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to launch investment fund, seeking support from Persian Gulf countries

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The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia control some of the region’s largest investment funds, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, which tracks these types of funds.

Mnuchin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mnuchin visited the Middle East frequently throughout the Trump administration, most often as part of the Treasury’s mandate to combat terrorist financing abroad. In the weeks of the Trump administration’s decline, as Washington turned away from the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol and questions revolved around whether the Trump cabinet would attempt to remove him from power, Mnuchin was on a diplomatic swing through the Middle East and Africa, visiting Sudan, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He had planned to visit Kuwait as well, but cut the trip short following the riot.

Mnuchin also visited the region in October to promote trade relations following the Abrahamic accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states. Mnuchin and Jared Kushner, former adviser to President Donald Trumps and son-in-law, also helped organize the Bahrain conference in 2019 which helped secure the Abrahamic Accords.

Mnuchin traveled to Saudi Arabia and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in October 2018, even as the Saudi royal was widely suspected of ordering the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi weeks earlier. The CIA later concluded that Mohammed ordered the assassination.

Trump was a staunch supporter of the crown prince, viewing Saudi Arabia and allied states like the United Arab Emirates as essential partners in an effort to counter Iran in the region. Trump has blocked congressional efforts to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and smuggled an arms deal to the United Arab Emirates despite bipartisan opposition in Congress.

Trump also withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran that had been negotiated by the Obama administration and continued a maximum pressure campaign targeting the Irans, with some remaining ties to the international financial system. The renewed sanctions have helped devastate the Iranian economy and have raised concerns over Iran’s ability to import humanitarian goods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration has also formally supported the conduct of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen, drawing criticism from Democrats and human rights groups that it ignored attacks on civilians and the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Yemen have died for relations between the Trump administration and the Saudi and UAE governments, “said Mark Weisbrot, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It would be terrible if Mnuchin or other officials Trump had to cash in on it now.

While it is not clear whether Mnuchin will seek funds from the Saudi or UAE governments, his planned investment effort, so soon after leaving office, raises concerns over whether the administration’s policy Trump was influenced by Mnuchin’s future activities, an ethics expert said.

The fact that there have been pro-country policies that could now benefit him in a trade deal is troubling and raises questions as to whether even the prospect of future trade interests could have had an impact on taking hold. decision, even though there were no specific plans. in place, said Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group.

Following in the footsteps of other former senior government officials, Mnuchin has been on the speaking circuit since leaving the Treasury Department and plans to charge $ 250,000 to speak in person, Bloomberg News reported last week.

Mnuchins’ successor, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, earned more than $ 7 million in two-year speaking fees from major banks and corporations, according to his financial disclosure form.

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