President Donald Trump said the 18 arrests by Saudi Arabia in the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is a “good first step” and “a big step.” He noted that the United States is continuing its investigation into the “unacceptable” incident. He made the remarks during a visit to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on Oct. 19.
All the arrested are Saudi citizens. The kingdom also announced that it fired five top officials and a number of lower officials were also relieved of their posts.
Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Oct. 19.
“The results of the preliminary investigations revealed that the discussions that took place with the citizen during his presence in the consulate by the suspects did not go as required and escalated negatively, which led to a fight between them and the citizen, which aggregated the situation and led to his death, may God rest his soul,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The suspects then tried to cover up the crime.
In another statement, the Saudi attorney general said that the discussions at the consulate “led to a brawl and a fist fight … which led to his death.”
Trump said he considers the Saudi statement credible, though “it’s early.”
“We haven’t finished our review,” he said.
Since the news of Khashoggi’s disappearance came out, Trump indicated that he would consider sanctions or other means to penalize Saudi Arabia, but wouldn’t want to cancel the $450 billion in purchases and investments the kingdom promised the United States, which includes a $110 billion arms contract.
“There are plenty of other things we can do,” Trump said on Oct. 19.
Trump also pointed out the Saudis are a “great ally” to the United States.
“We need them as a counterbalance to Iran,” he said.