Trump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
President Trump would not answer a question from NBC's Chuck Todd on whether he will allow the FBI to investigate the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which a UN investigator recommended in a report released last week. He instead cited the billions of dollars Saudi Arabia pays the U.S. in the form of weapons sales.
The big picture: Trump's response is in line with what he has said about Khashoggi's assassination since his official statement in November, in which he claimed the world is "a very dangerous place," blamed Iran for destabilizing the Middle East, and stated that the U.S. will stand by Saudi Arabia regardless of whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the operation.
- In an interview with "Axios on HBO," White House senior adviser Jared Kushner was similarly noncommittal about assigning blame for Khashoggi's death and said that he is waiting for the results of a U.S. investigation.
Trump: "Saudi Arabia has to protect themselves, Chuck. But it's, it’s a million jobs and probably more. They buy massive amounts, $150 billion worth of military equipment that, by the way, we use. We use that military equipment. And unlike other countries that don't have money and we have to subsidize everything. So Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of America product. That means something to me. It's a big producer of jobs."
Todd: "It makes you overlook some of their bad behavior?"
Trump: "No. I don't like anybody's bad behavior."
Todd: "The United Nations said they'd like the United States to order the FBI to investigate Jamal Khashoggi's death and possibly MBS’ involvement in it. Will you allow the FBI to do that?"
Trump: "I think it's been heavily investigated."
Todd: "By who?"
Trump: "By everybody. I mean —"
Todd: "By the FBI?"
Trump: 'I’ve seen so many different reports."
Todd: "What about the FBI?"
Trump: "Here's where I am, you ready?"
Trump: "Iran's killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East, this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you're going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries, I won't mention names, and take a look at what's happening. And then you go outside of the Middle East, and you take a look at what's happening with countries. Okay? And I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time — all money, all jobs, buying equipment —"
Todd: "That's the price. As long as they keep buying —"
Trump: "No, no."
Todd: "— you'll overlook some of this behavior."
Trump: "But 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."