In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump was asked if he would allow the FBI to investigate Khashoggi’s death. “I think it’s been heavily investigated,” Trump said. When asked the investigations were done by whom, Trump said: “By everybody. I mean…I’ve seen so many different reports.”
Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post. He was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year. Last week, a United Nations expert said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be investigated for Khashoggi’s murder because of “credible evidence” that he and other senior officials were liable for the killing.
Trump told NBC that Khashoggi’s death “really didn’t come up” when he spoke to Salman on Sunday. The crown prince is a key ally of the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Trump said Saudi Arabia was no worse than other countries in West Asia, calling it a “vicious, hostile place”. “Look at Iran, look at other countries, I won’t mention names,” he said.
Asked if he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s “bad behaviour” since they bought US military equipment, Trump said: “I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese. They will buy – we make the best equipment in the world, but they will buy great equipment from Russia and from China.”
Trump said the US was going to protect Saudi Arabia as it was “buying $400 billion worth of things for us”. “They [Saudi] buy massive amounts, $150 billion worth of military equipment that, by the way, we use,” Trump said. “We use that military equipment. And unlike other countries that don’t have money and we have to subsidise everything. So Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of America product. That means something to me. It’s a big producer of jobs.”
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied Salman’s involvement in the murder, and in December 2018, condemned a United States Senate resolution accusing him of ordering the killing of the journalist. They have blamed the murder on a group of rogue Saudi officials.