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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.
The exchange:

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?"

Todd: "Uh-huh."

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."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.