WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia is paying influential lobbyists, lawyers and public relations experts nearly $6 million a year to engage U.S. officials and promote the Middle East nation, even after three Washington firms cut ties with the kingdom following the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Among those still in Saudi Arabia’s corner are high-profile Washington attorney Ted Olson and a lobbying firm headed by the former Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, according to records filed with the Justice Department that provide details of agreements with the country’s embassy and other arms of its government.

More defections are possible as pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork he needed to get married.

The Harbour Group, the BGR Group and The Glover Park Group all announced over the last week that they would no longer represent Saudi Arabia, ending one-year agreements to represent the kingdom collectively worth $3.7 million. Glover Park’s deal was slated to end Dec. 31. BGR’s contract would have expired in February, while the Harbour Group’s engagement with the Saudis was supposed to run through April.

The departures reverberated as indicators of how serious a reputational problem the Saudis were facing in the United States and around the world. Palpable unease has set in among several of Saudi Arabia’s usually vociferous proxies in Washington. The silence appears to be indicative of confusion about how to proceed in the absence of hard facts about exactly what happened to Khashoggi and who might be responsible.


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