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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Georgia, late Tuesday. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Nov. 25. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).