Trump reluctant to curb arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to missing journalist


President Trump on Wednesday appeared reluctant to consider blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the disappearance last week of a Washington Post columnist after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered an operation to lure columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him, according to U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan.

Turkish officials say that a Saudi security team lay in wait for the journalist and killed him.

During an interview Wednesday night on Fox News, Trump said he wanted to find out what happened to Khashoggi but balked when asked if he would support blocking further arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as some senators have suggested.

“Well, I think that would be hurting us,” Trump said. “We have jobs. We have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that’s doing probably better economically than it’s ever done before. Part of that is what we are doing with our defense systems and everybody is wanting them and frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.”

On his first international trip as president, Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced $110 billion in proposed arms sales. The administration also relies on Saudi support for several aspects of its Middle East agenda.

In a separate Fox News interview on Thursday morning, Trump characterized the United States’s relationship with Saudi Arabia as “excellent.”

[Crown prince sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him, U.S. intercepts show]

Asked about The Post report that the crown prince ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Well, it would be a very sad thing, and we would probably know in the very short future.”

“We have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “We want to find out what happened. He went in, and it doesn’t look like he came it. It certainly doesn’t look like he’s around.”

During the Wednesday night interview, Trump took another shot at the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) for voting against a Republican bill last year to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature initiative.

“We had it beat other than one senator, or you could put it differently,” Trump said. “One senator late in the evening happened to vote against it, shockingly even though he campaigned for 10 — for eight years against it,” Trump said.

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