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Trump: No need to cancel defense contracts ‘as retribution’ for Jamal Khashoggi’s death

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Donald Trump
President
Donald Trump.

AP Photo/Mary
Altaffer


President Donald Trump said Friday that he approves of Saudi
Arabia’s acknowledgement that the Saudi journalist Jamal
Khashoggi died inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Trump called it “a great first step,” while speaking at a
roundtable discussion with defense industry executives at Luke
Air Force Base. An official statement from White House press
secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed the same while offering
condolences to Khashoggi’s family.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia
admitted
that Khashoggi, a Saudi national who was had been
living in Virginia as a legal US resident with a green card, was
killed after an encounter with Saudi agents at the consulate “led
to a quarrel and a physical confrontation.” That admission on
Friday followed nearly three weeks of conflicting statements from
the Kingdom and from Turkish officials.

Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of his country and the crown
prince, and reportedly feared for his safety before his
disappearance on October 2.

Other Saudi media reports suggested Khashoggi was interrogated
and eventually died in a chokehold as a result of a physical
struggle. Turkish authorities long suspected the Kingdom had
orchestrated the killing, citing recovered audio recordings.


jamal khashoggi
Washington
Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Associated Press/Virginia Mayo

Despite Saudi Arabia’s admission, Trump stopped short of calling
for swift action against the country.

Sitting among a group of leaders from the defense industry, Trump
said he was hesitant to nix US defense contracts with Saudi
Arabia. The kingdom has spent almost
$90 billion
on arms since 1950 and has been a top buyer of US
defense contracts.

“We have a tremendous order,” Trump said.

Turning to the executives around the table, Trump added, “I don’t
want to tell them ‘By the way, we’re going to take $25 billion
worth of sales away from you.’ Because that would mean a lot of
jobs, it would mean a lot of everything.”

“I would prefer if there was going to be some form of sanction,”
Trump said, adding that “we don’t use as retribution, canceling
$110 billion worth of work, which means 600,000 jobs. I know it
sounds easy and it sounds good.”

Trump has continued to lay claim to $110 billion worth of defense
trade deals with Saudi Arabia,
without noting
they have been merely “memorandums of intent”
to fill that amount in the next 10 years.

“I went there to get that order,” Trump said, referring to his
first foreign trip as president to Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia
was my first stop and everyone thought that was unusual but I
said ‘I want to order tremendous amounts of stuff.'”


Donald Trump Saudi Arabia
President
Donald Trump is facing mounting pressure to react more forcefully
to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal
Khashoggi.

Mark Wilson/Getty
Images


The White House described Khashoggi’s death as a “tragic
incident” and said it would “continue to closely follow the
international investigations.”

“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death,
and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and
friends,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said
in a statement.

Trump, who has been under scrutiny for his
financial ties to the kingdom
, said on Thursday that there
would be “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was
discovered to be responsible.

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