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 on Fox News Wednesday night, 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.
“I’d have to find out really before I discuss this, I’d have to find out what happened,” Trump told Fox News. “And we are looking, and so are other people. Turkey is looking. And a couple of others are looking. The very talented people are involved. And we will get to the bottom of it. I do hate to commit to what recourse we’d take at this. It’s just too early.”
During the same 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.