US President Donald Trump has dismissed a UN request for further investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by citing America’s multi-billion dollar trade with Riyadh.
In an interview, yesterday with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump said that Khashoggi’s killing had been thoroughly investigated. His remarks suggested that any further probe into the grisly murder of the Washington Post journalist may jeopardize America’s multibillion-dollar arms deal.
Explaining that the Middle East is “a vicious, hostile place” and that Saudi Arabia is an important trading partner Trump said: “I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment.”
Doubling down on his remarks he added: “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’ll do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”
During the interview Trump revealed that he recently had “a great conversation” with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and that he did not raise the issue of the UN report that was released last week in which the world body concluded that Khashoggi’s killing “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”
The report called for further investigations into the Crown Prince whose assassins are heard describing Khashoggi as a “sacrificial lamb.”
Saudi officials have also dismissed the UN’s findings. Confronted with gruesome details from the report this week, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN the report was “flawed.”
“We know this was a rogue operation that was not authorized,” he said. “We know that a crime was committed, we have people in jail and on trial as we speak.”
“It’s a gruesome murder that happened outside authorities and for which the people who committed it will be punished… this should never have happened.”
This line of defense, however, has been rejected by the UN.
Trump’s comment was the latest in a series of remarks in which the former property tycoon has prioritized multibillion-dollar deals with the Kingdom over the views of his intelligence community and Congress. The CIA holds Bin Salman primarily responsible for Khashoggi’s death while the Senate has ruled arms sale to Riyadh and the UAE are unlawful.