US President Donald Trump appeared to backtrack comments he had earlier made Saturday after he told reporters he was ‘not satisfied’ with Saudi Arabia‘s explanation of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death.
The American leader answered questions from the media regarding the Kingdom finally admitting the US-based writer died at the Saudi consulate October 2, after 17 days of denial they had anything to do with his disappearance.
‘No, I’m not satisfied until we find the answer. But it was a big first step. It was a good first step. But I want to get to the answer,’ he said after stopping in Nevada for a rally ahead of the November 6 mid-term elections.
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US President Donald Trump told reporters he was ‘not satisfied’ with Saudi Arabia’s explanation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death
He also seemed less eager to defend KSA when asked if it was possible Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman didn’t know about Khashoggi’s death in Istanbul, Turkey.
‘Possibly. You don’t know that, but it’s possible,’ he replied.
He said he’ll be speaking to the royal ‘soon, maybe today’ and denied claims Mike Pompeo had seen video or heard audio that allegedly reveals how Khashoggi died. ‘I’d tell you if we had,’ he told press.
‘Nobody seems to know,’ he said about where Khashoggi’s body is. Somebody knows. Nobody in the investigation groups but we’ll find out.
‘It is a concern. We like to find out where it is and what happened. We’re inching our way there.’ he said.
Trump initially said he found the explanation ‘credible’. Asked whether he thought the Saudi explanation was credible, he replied: ‘I do. I do.’
Trump said it is a concern that Jamal Khashoggi’s body was missing and said ‘We like to find out where it is’
The leader then warned against scrapping a multibillion-dollar arms deal with the conservative country.
Trump told reporters it would not be bad news for his rate of unemployment if the US canceled military equipment orders.
He added that sanctions were on the table if punishment was necessary.
‘With all that being said though, we have $450 billion, $110 billion of which is a military order,’ he added. ‘I think it’s over a million jobs. That’s not helpful for us to cancel an order like that. That hurts us far more than it hurts them.
‘For the military equipment they go to China, they go to Russia…they don’t have great equipment like we do.’
He continued: ‘But there are other things that can be done, including sanctions.’
He said about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: ‘Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point’
Despite Trump saying he believed the country had not been totally honest in the last two-and-a-half weeks, the 72-year-old was not willing to place blame on the prince after many reports he was behind the killing of his critic Khashoggi.
‘Nobody has told me he’s responsible. Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point. I haven’t heard either way,’ Trump said in a phone interview with The Washington Post.
‘Obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies,’ he said.
His comments came after 22 senators sent a letter to Trump demanding an independent probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder.
Under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act the White House has 120 days to carry out a probe and impose sanctions on anyone responsible.
Turkish officials have accused Riyadh of carrying out a state-sponsored killing and dismembering the body, with pro-government media in Turkey reporting the existence of video and audio evidence to back those claims.
Ankara vowed to reveal all the details of a two-week inquiry, while the EU, Germany, France, Britain, Australia, Canada and the UN also demanded greater clarity.
Following the widely unaccepted announcement Khashoggi died after a ‘fistfight’ at the consulate, 18 Saudis were arrested and two top aides of MBS had been fired, together with three other intelligence agents.
The Saudi king ordered the establishment of a ministerial body under the chairmanship of his son to restructure the kingdom’s intelligence agency.
Saudi state media said it would ‘define its powers precisely’.
Saudi officials have denied that the crown prince had any involvement in the affair. However it is alleged he sent a 15-man hit squad after Khashoggi who alleged dismembered his body earlier this month.