President Donald Trump isn’t saying whether he’ll direct the FBI to investigate the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and suggests that pledges by Saudi Arabia to spend billions buying U.S. military equipment are more important to him because of the impact on jobs and the economy.
Trump said the slaying of the Saudi journalist has “been heavily investigated.”
Last week, however, an independent U.N. report on the killing found “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation into the possible role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and called for the FBI to investigate. U.S. intelligence agencies previously had concluded that the crown prince ordered that Khashoggi be killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he went to pick up documents to marry his Turkish fiancee.
Khashoggi’s writings criticized the Saudi royal family.
“Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of (American) product. That means something to me. It’s a big producer of jobs,” the president told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in a wide-ranging interview that was taped Friday and broadcast Sunday. Trump said the subject of Khashoggi “didn’t come up” when he and the crown prince spoke last Thursday, largely about Iran.
Trump said the Middle East is a “vicious, hostile place” and that Iran and other countries in the region are also guilty of the type of behavior Saudi Arabia has been accused of engaging in.
Khashoggi was killed, and believed to have been dismembered by Saudi agents, inside the consulate on Oct. 2. His remains have never been found.
The president declined last year to penalize Saudi Arabia over the killing. Khashoggi had been living in the U.S. at the time of his death.
Trump said he’s “not like a fool” that will refuse to do business with the U.S. ally, arguing that the kingdom will turn to U.S. rivals China and Russia if Washington refuses to sell arms to the Saudis.
“Take their money. Take their money,” Trump said.
The Senate voted last week to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Trump has promised to veto the measure.