Trump sticks up for Saudis after Khashoggi killing claims, saying they are vital in fighting terrorism
‘I hope that the king and the crown prince didn’t know about it. That is a big factor in my eyes,’ says US president
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he did not want to walk away from Saudi Arabia over the disappearance and alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, insisting the US relies on the kingdom in Washington’s fight against terrorism.
Asked during an interview on Fox Business what action he had in mind for Riyadh if he learned it was responsible, Trump said: “Well, I hope we’re going to be on the better side of the equation.”
“You know we need Saudi Arabia in terms of our fight against all of the terrorism, everything that’s happening in Iran and other places.”
The US and Saudi Arabia have long been allies, with both opposed to Riyadh’s regional nemesis Iran since the country’s 1979 revolution.
Asked whether the US would not then walk away from Saudi Arabia, he said: “I do not want to do that and frankly they have a tremendous order, US$110 billion,” referring to promised US arms sales to the kingdom.
“It is 500,000 jobs, it will be ultimately US$110 billion, it’s the biggest order in the history of our country from an outside military, and I said we are gonna turn that down?” Trump said.
“So hopefully it is working out. We’ll find out, we’ll get down to the bottom of it. I hope that the king and the crown prince didn’t know about it. That is a big factor in my eyes, and I hope they haven’t.”
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed confidence that the Saudi government could be trusted to investigate the disappearance and suspected murder of a US-based Saudi journalist in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul – despite the likelihood that senior Saudi officials were involved.
Together they appeared to signal a shift in White House strategy – earlier this week Trump had warned Saudi rulers could face “severe punishment” – and suggested the administration has decided to help its most important ally in the Arab world defuse an international crisis over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi.
Turkish media on Wednesday published gruesome details of his alleged torture and dismemberment at the hands of a Saudi death squad inside the embassy, claiming to have heard audio recordings of the killing.
Watch: US Secretary of State Pompeo meets Saudi leaders
Some reports said the recordings included the voice of the Saudi consul, who flew back to Riyadh on Tuesday after police announced they would search his Istanbul home. The search was delayed and carried out on Wednesday.
Trump also said the US has requested the audio and video from Turkey related missing journalist “if it exists” and that he will probably know what happened to Khashoggi by the end of the week.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press