President Donald Trump is threatening tough action if Saudi Arabia is found to have killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has not been seen alive since he entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
On Saturday, CBS released a video clip from Trump’s “60 Minutes” in which he spoke about the issue.
“There will be severe punishment,” Trump told Lesley Stahl in the interview, set to air Sunday.
Although multiple media reports have said that Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, is presumed to have been killed by the Saudis, Trump said the facts are not all in.
“It’s being investigated, it’s being looked at very, very strongly, and we would be very upset and angry if that were the case,” the president said.
The Turkish government has also alleged that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, a claim that Saudi officials have denied.
A Turkish newspaper said a recording made by the reporter’s Apple Watch shows he was killed in the consulate, CNN reported, citing the pro-government newspaper Sabah.
The newspaper claimed “interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both his phone and to iCloud.”
Although Trump’s differences with mainstream media outlets are legendary, he said the fact that a reporter may have been killed raises the stakes for the investigation.
“There’s a lot at stake, maybe especially so because this man was a reporter,” he said. “You’ll be surprised to hear me say that, there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case.”
During his interview, Trump was asked whether any response related to the Khashoggi case could impact a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
“Everybody in the world wanted that order,” the president said. “Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it. … I don’t want to hurt jobs, I don’t want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of punishing.”
However, some in Congress feel differently.
Arms deals “are certainly going to be a huge concern if” the Saudis can be proven to have killed Khashoggi, Sen. Cory Gardner said, according to Politico.
“Saudi Arabia needs to clear this up immediately,” the Colorado Republican said. “Obviously, there’s a way that this can end very badly, and that is if Saudi is indeed responsible for this — as, at least reports I am seeing, would point to that direction.”
Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said the U.S. cannot let Saudi Arabia get a pass if it is implicated in Khashoggi’s death.
“It’s important to have allies in that part of the world,” Thune said. “But I do think there are lines that get crossed from time to time that require a response.”
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