President Trump on Thursday called the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “no good,” and said he is “probably getting closer” to discovering what happened to Khashoggi.
“I have to find out what happened,” before deciding on consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump told Fox & Friends. “We’re probably getting closer than you might think but I have to find out what happened.”
“We don’t like it. I don’t like it. No good,” Trump said.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, disappeared last Tuesday after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was set to retrieve a document he needed to marry his fiancée.
Turkish officials have alleged that Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate by a team flown in from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has denied Khashoggi died inside the building and claims he left shortly after entering, but has not produced video to prove it.
Khashoggi, a former adviser to top Saudi officials who became a full-throated critic of the Saudi government, had gone into exile and was living in the U.S. before his disappearance. His monthly column for the Post denounced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies, and he had expressed fear about being arrested for his dissent.
“The people being arrested are not even being dissidents, they just have an independent mind,” he told the BBC days before his disappearance.
The Trump administration has come under fire for not responding strongly enough to Khashoggi’s disappearance, with critics charging that it was reluctant to upset its Saudi allies. The president said Thursday that relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are still “excellent” and expressed unwillingness to cancel a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia even if the government is found responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“A 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,” Trump said of canceling the deal.