United States President Donald Trump says he found Saudi Arabia’s explanation about the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi credible.
Trump added if the US takes action, he does not want it to impact arms sales to the kingdom, which said Khashoggi was killed in a fight at its Istanbul consulate. Turkish officials pointed to a state-sanctioned hit.
“I do, I do,” Trump said when asked if he found the Saudis’ explanation credible, adding: “It’s early, we haven’t finished our review or investigation, but… I think it’s a very important first step.”
“I would prefer, if there is going to be some form of sanction or what we may determine to do, if anything… that we don’t use as retribution cancelling $110 billion worth of work, which means 600,000 jobs,” he said during a visit to Arizona, referring to a major arms deal with the kingdom.
AFP reports that Trump has sent mixed messages about Khashoggi for days, vowing a severe response but also saying that the United States wants to preserve its close relationship with the conservative kingdom.
Members of the US Congress were far harsher in the wake of the kingdom’s admission that Khashoggi was dead.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said he doubted the credibility of the Saudi authorities, who insisted for weeks that he left the consulate.
“The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water,” he tweeted.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who has nonetheless been outspoken about Khashoggi, shared Corker’s suspicion.
“To say that I am sceptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr Khashoggi is an understatement,” the Republican senator tweeted.