NEW YORK (Halbeeg News) – Donald Trump has said US investigators are looking into how Jamal Khashoggi vanished at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as reports in the US implicated the powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in plans to abduct the dissident journalist.
The US president suggested that even if Riyadh were directly implicated in Mr Khashoggi’s abduction or murder, it would not affect vast US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
But senior Republicans in Congress have signalled they were prepared to force the US to take punitive action if Mr Khashoggi was found to have been murdered by the Saudi regime.
“We’re being very tough. And we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened,” Mr Trump told Fox News on Thursday morning. The US state department had referred earlier questions about the case to the FBI.
Asked later on Thursday whether the US would cut arms sales if the Saudi government was found to be responsible for Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance, the president demurred, saying the US could lose its share of the huge Saudi arms market to Russia or China.
In the Oval Office Mr Trump pointed out that the disappearance took place in Turkey and that Mr Khashoggi was not a US citizen. On being told that the journalist was a US permanent resident, the president said: “We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country – knowing they have . . . two very good alternatives. That would not be acceptable to me.”
The president’s desire to protect weapons sales and his family’s close relationship with the Saudi monarchy could lead to a clash with congressional Republicans, some of whom are already uneasy about the high civilian death toll from the Saudi aerial bombardment of Yemen, using US-made bombs.