One of the roughly 10 lobbying firms that represent the Saudi government, the Harbour Group, has dropped it as a client, and others are considering following suit, according to people familiar with discussions, as Saudi Arabia struggles with a backlash over allegations that it murdered the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The lobbying firms are privately discussing how to proceed, these people said. But some have already decided that the prospect of continued paychecks from Saudi Arabia — once a prized and profitable client — is not worth the risk to their reputations.
But for financial and technology companies, several of which have multibillion-dollar ties to Saudi Arabia, the calculus is more complicated. Few executives have backed out of the conference, which is called the Future Investment Initiative but is known colloquially as Davos in the Desert.
Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, was one of the few to announce that they would back out.
.. The Public Investment Fund, a large Saudi sovereign wealth fund, invested $3.5 billion for a 5.6 percent share in Uber in June 2016.
The fund’s managing director, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, took a seat on Uber’s board. Prince Mohammed is the chairman of the Public Investment Fund.
.. Blackstone’s chief executive, Stephen A. Schwarzman, remains an advisory board member and is expected to speak at the conference, which is held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where Prince Mohammed locked up hundreds of wealthy Saudis last year in what he called an anti-corruption campaign but critics said was an effort to crush dissent.
.. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, is also still planning to attend
.. Peter Thiel, the technology venture capitalist who was once an ally of President Trump and is known for his independent streak, is still a member of the event’s advisory board but had never planned to attend the gathering, according to a person close to Mr. Thiel.
.. Richard Branson, the billionaire British entrepreneur, said that he had suspended his directorship at two tourism projects near the Red Sea and that his space ventures would halt their discussions over proposed investments from the Public Investment Fund... Saudi Arabia has been a coveted client, thanks to its reputation for paying above-market rates and its status as one of the United States’ most reliable allies in an unstable region, which seemed cemented by the ties between Prince Mohammed and the Trump administration... The debates about dropping the Saudi account also reflect the skittishness of the lobbying industry at a time when it has faced mounting scrutiny from federal investigators, including the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, about how foreign interests try to shape American politics and policy... The highest-paid firms representing the Saudis in Washington are the international public affairs consultancy
- Qorvis MSLGroup, which is being paid $279,500 a month, and the
- Glover Park Group, which was started by former Clinton administration officials and is being paid $150,000 a month.. Another two firms are being paid $125,000 a month —
- Hogan Lovells, which has Norm Coleman, a former senator of Minnesota, as its point person for Saudi work, and
- Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has a bipartisan team composed of Marc S. Lampkin, a former aide to the former House speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, and Alfred E. Mottur, a top fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
.. Not all of these firms will drop the Saudis. Some are leaning toward maintaining their contracts, in part because they predict that if they were to abandon the country en masse, it could lead to reduced cooperation from the Saudi government.
He heaped praise on Jared Kushner at a private gathering of bankers and corporate executives in December, congratulating President Trump’s son-in-law on the surprise election triumph.
He stood up again in May before a group of corporate leaders on the 39th floor of Citigroup’s offices to remind them of all the good the Trump administration could do for the economy and the country.
.. Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone and the leader of one of the councils, has not been alone on Wall Street in his embrace of the Trump presidency, particularly after the corporate world endured eight years of Obama-era regulation. But in each of these private meetings, recounted by people who attended them, Mr. Schwarzman emerged as one of the president’s most respected and reliable allies in high finance.
.. Mr. Schwarzman’s stature in both the world of finance and in Mr. Trump’s Washington helped Blackstone nail down one of the biggest deals on Wall Street this year — its selection by Saudi Arabia to manage a new $20 billion fund, according to a person with knowledge of the selection process.
In May, while the president was visiting Saudi Arabia, Blackstone announced the agreement to manage the fund, the largest in the world to invest in infrastructure projects. The announcement was made at the royal palace in Riyadh as Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner looked on.
.. the Saudis had been discussing a possible partnership with a number of other firms as well, and formally decided on Blackstone — a fund-raising juggernaut that manages funds larger than the economies of some nations — only after Mr. Schwarzman had started advising the president.
.. the company’s experience illustrates the incentives that corporate leaders have to develop strong ties with Mr. Trump — the country’s businessman in chief — and the reputational risks associated with those relationships when Mr. Trump veers off course, as he did this past week.
.. Some of the other investment firms that were in discussions about a Saudi partnership, including Brookfield and the Carlyle Group, had more experience in managing infrastructure funds and are still in talks with the Saudis
.. But while Mr. Schwarzman’s alliance with Mr. Trump is new, his ties to Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, run deeper. Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, attended Mr. Schwarzman’s 70th birthday party in February at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., near Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
.. In 2013, well before Mr. Trump was even a candidate, Blackstone financed the purchase of a few warehouses and industrial buildings by Mr. Kushner’s family company
.. Mr. Kushner is also friendly with Jon Gray, a senior Blackstone executive who runs its real estate business.
.. Mr. Kushner and Mr. Gray, a Democrat, have been photographed together at Manhattan social events, and before the election, Mr. Kushner urged the staff at the Commercial Observer newspaper, which Mr. Kushner used to run, to place Mr. Gray higher on its list of “Power 100” real estate executives, according to a former employee with knowledge of the list. In 2016, Mr. Gray was No. 1 on that list.
.. Unlike many people in Washington, Mr. Schwarzman said, Mr. Trump could accomplish tax policy reform and an infrastructure overhaul.
.. Mr. Schwarzman speaks with Mr. Trump as much as once a week, typically about the economy though also about social policy, including a conversation in which Mr. Schwarzman advised the president to continue shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation
.. Blackstone manages about $370 billion.
Gary Cohn, was upset by the remarks and the trajectory of a news conference Tuesday that was supposed to showcase the White House’s infrastructure plans, aides said. Instead, the event was dominated by Mr. Trump’s fiery commentary about the violence in Charlottesville that left one person dead… John Kelly, the newly minted White House chief of staff who was brought in last month to impose discipline in a fractious West Wing, was also frustrated to see Mr. Trump equate the white nationalists who had chanted “Jews won’t replace us” with the actions of counterprotesters, an administration aide said.
.. Some of the GOP president’s allies said Mr. Trump’s foray into the combustible politics of race will make things tougher as Congress confronts a series of difficult legislative challenges, including lifting the nation’s debt ceiling, passing a budget and changing the tax code.
.. Mr. Trump’s relationship with important congressional allies has already soured. He recently attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in tweets for the collapse of the GOP health-care legislation.
.. Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Stephen A. Schwarzman, who led the Strategic and Policy Forum, called the president on Wednesday to inform him the group was being disbanded, according to people familiar with the call.
.. Various U.S. military leaders at the Pentagon issued their own statements denouncing bigotry, while the Navy said it may consider changing the crest of a ship commemorating one of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s victories.
.. Mr. Kelly doesn’t have the same command over White House communications. On Wednesday, the administration installed Hope Hicks, a longtime press adviser to the president, as interim communications director while it searches for a permanent replacement.
Speaking to staff at one point earlier this month, Mr. Kelly told the White House team that the best job he ever had was as a sergeant in the Marine Corps. After one week at the White House, he joked with them, that hadn’t changed—yet.
He recruited political opponents with ties to Washington and Mr. Trump, notably Brian Mulroney, the former Progressive Conservative prime minister who has a house near Mr. Trump’s in Palm Beach, Fla., for the cause. Mr. Trudeau promoted Chrystia Freeland, the international trade minister, to minister of foreign affairs and set one priority above all else for her: to “maintain constructive relations with the United States.”
.. Mr. Trudeau has been under pressure at home to be the world’s voice against a president who has already insulted or belittled an array of nations. Those Canadians are likely to be disappointed.
Mr. Trudeau may feel he has little choice. Canada is too closely entwined with its immense neighbor — economically, militarily, diplomatically and in countless other ways — to risk the development of serious friction.
.. he and his cabinet ministers have been careful not to criticize Mr. Trump directly. It is a situation that faces the leaders of other American allies, but none have nearly as much to lose as Canada does — and none may have a leader as completely opposite to Mr. Trump in manner and belief.
.. At news conferences, Mr. Trudeau, who describes himself as a feminist, is often asked if Mr. Trump is a misogynist. His response is always similar. “It is not the job of a Canadian prime minister to opine on the American electoral process,” Mr. Trudeau said last month in Calgary, Alberta. “It is the job of the Canadian prime minister to have a constructive working relationship with the president of the United States.”
.. On Thursday, Ms. Freeland received a call from Rex W. Tillerson during his first day on the job as secretary of state.
.. Last month Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet met with Stephen A. Schwarzman, the co-founder and chief executive of the Blackstone Group
.. After the meeting, Mr. Schwarzman offered soothing words. “Canada is held in very high regard,” he said. “We have balanced trade between the U.S. and Canada, and that’s not the kind of situation where you should be worrying.”
.. Ms. Freeland said that by her count, 11 substantial changes had already been made to Nafta.
.. Mr. Trudeau’s government may have to weigh protecting its trade relationship with the United States against standing up for Mexico’s free-trade status — and implicitly its support of the principle of open commerce.
If it comes down to that, Mr. Higginbotham predicts that Canada will abandon Mexico “in a minute.”
.. They regularly remind governors, mayors and members of Congress that Canada is the largest export market for 38 American states, making free trade in America’s best interest as well.
.. Already it is working to quash proposals to require Canadians to give fingerprints or undergo facial recognition scans every time they enter or leave the United States. With more than 400,000 people crossing that border daily, Canada fears that could cause cross-border travel gridlock and hamper trade.