President Donald Trump doesn’t “like” that Saudi Arabia may be involved in the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi but won’t stop arms sales between the country and the U.S., he told “Fox & Friends” and reporters at the White House on Thursday.
“Well, we’re looking at it very, very seriously. I don’t like it at all. Now, you don’t have American citizens, but that, in this case, doesn’t matter. I don’t like it. I don’t like it with respect to reporters. It is a terrible, terrible precedent. We can’t let it happen,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.”
“And we’re being very tough, and we have investigators over there, and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly, we’re working with Saudi Arabia,” he added. “We want to find out what happened. He went in and doesn’t look like he came out. It certainly doesn’t look like he’s around.”
Khashoggi is a prominent Saudi journalist who was living in a self-imposed exile. He entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and has not been seen in public since. U.S. intelligence intercepts reveal that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered an effort to lure Khashoggi back to his home country, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing U.S. officials familiar with them.
Turkish authorities indicated that Khashoggi might have been a target because he was critical of the repression of Saudi citizens under Mohammed.
“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade pressed Trump on what Khashoggi’s disappearance will mean for U.S.-Saudi relations.
“I would say they’re excellent,” Trump said before going on a tangent. “I’ve told them they have to pay for their military. Saudi Arabia is a very rich country. For years and years. ... There wouldn’t be a Saudi Arabia without the United States, because we’ve protected them. We don’t get paid for this protection. We should be paid. We spent billions and billions of dollars a year protecting Saudi Arabia. I’ve told the king, King Salman, ‘Sorry. You’ve got to pay.’”
Kilmeade interjected to say, “But you can’t be killing Americans. You can’t be killing Washington Post journalists. Is everything in jeopardy now, sir? Is that in jeopardy now, our good relations with Saudi Arabia?”
Trump replied that he has to “find out what happened” and that “we’re probably getting closer than you might think.”
Co-host Steve Doocy brought up the report that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s return to Saudi Arabia.
“That sounds like it goes right to the top, Mr. President,” he said.
“That would be a very sad thing, and we’ll probably know in the very short future,” Trump replied. “We have incredible people and incredible talent working on it. We don’t like it. I don’t like it. No good.”
Trump later told reporters at the White House that he wasn’t open to stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia because “this took place in Turkey and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen.”
“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money coming into our country,” the president said. “I don’t like stopping an investment of $110 billion in the United States.”
This article has been updated with Trump’s comments about not stopping arms trade.