WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL—President Donald Trump said on Oct. 22 he was still not satisfied with what he has heard from Saudi Arabia about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but did not want to lose investment from Riyadh.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, disappeared three weeks ago after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate, a reaction greeted skeptically by several Western governments, straining relations with the world’s biggest oil exporter.
“I am not satisfied with what I’ve heard,” Trump told reporters at the White House and later added: “I don’t want to lose all that investment that’s been made in our country. … But we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
The kingdom promised the United States $450 billion in purchases and investments, Trump said, which includes a $110 billion arms contract. Trump previously indicated that he would consider sanctions or other means to penalize Saudi Arabia, but wouldn’t want to cancel the investments and purchases. He also pointed out the Saudis are a “great ally” to the United States and a needed “counterbalance to Iran.”
On Oct. 22, Trump said he spoke with the crown prince and that there are Americans in Saudi Arabia and U.S. intelligence officers in Turkey working on the Khashoggi case who are returning Oct. 22 night or the morning after.
“We’re going to know a lot over the next two days about the Saudi situation,” Trump said. “It’s a very sad thing.”
Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by Saudi agents and his body cut up. Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the murder of the 59-year-old.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said he will release information about the investigation in a speech on Oct. 23.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called the death a “grave mistake” on Oct. 21 and said the crown prince was not responsible. Saudi Arabia made 18 arrests in the case and fired five top officials as well as a number of lower officials. Trump called the arrests a “good first step” on Oct. 19.
Riyadh’s latest account of the incident details how a team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and killed him in a chokehold when he resisted. The suspects then tried to cover up the crime.
Germany, Britain, and France pressed Saudi Arabia to provide facts to back up its explanation of a fight that allegedly led to Khashoggi’s death. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would not export arms to Saudi Arabia while the current uncertainty over Khashoggi’s fate persisted.
‘The World Is Watching’
Earlier on Oct. 22, Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, said he had urged Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to be transparent about Khashoggi and told him “the world is watching” Riyadh’s account of the journalist’s disappearance.
Kushner has cultivated a personal relationship with Prince Mohammed and urged Trump to act with caution to avoid upsetting a critical strategic and economic relationship, a senior administration official said.
In an interview with CNN on Oct. 22, Kushner said he had told the crown prince: “Just to be transparent, to be fully transparent. The world is watching. This is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation.”
Asked how the prince responded, Kushner said: “We’ll see.”
By Gina Cherelus. Epoch Times staff member Petr Svab contributed to this report.