During his conversation with The Times, Mr. Trump was uncharacteristically guarded. He declined repeated requests to discuss the chain of events that led to Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance or the crown prince’s role.
In part, Mr. Trump acknowledged, that caution reflected his recognition that the Khashoggi case now posed a bigger challenge to him than other issues “because it’s taken on a bigger life than it would normally take on.”
Still, Mr. Trump emphasized the value of the alliance with Saudi Arabia to American military contractors and other firms. “They’ve been a very good ally, and they’ve bought massive amounts of various things and investments in this country, which I appreciate,” he said.
Those business ties have been sorely tested by the furor over Mr. Khashoggi. Before Mr. Mnuchin withdrew from the conference, known as the Future Investment Initiative, a stream of Wall Street and high-tech executives had canceled, citing the uncertainties over Mr. Khashoggi.
Mr. Mnuchin was planning to speak at the conference during a six-country, weeklong swing through the Middle East, focused on combating terrorism financing. Several prominent chief executives canceled plans to attend, along with ministers from Britain, France and the Netherlands.
The Treasury secretary, who had been fielding calls from executives in recent days about the wisdom of going, had urged people to focus on the facts and evidence. However, the pressure to cancel — which included calls from Republican lawmakers — became too much.
With so many executives and foreign officials scrapping plans to go to Riyadh, Mr. Mnuchin’s attendance emerged as a litmus test for the United States’ commitment to human rights. After Mr. Mnuchin’s decision, Goldman Sachs announced that Dina H. Powell, a senior executive who was previously a deputy national security adviser in the White House, would also not attend.