President Trump vowed to inflict “severe punishment” on Saudi Arabia if the United States discovers they are behind the suspected murder of missing American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In his first interview with 60 Minutes since his sit-down after winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump said the Saudis have denied playing a part in the disappearance of the Washington Post contributor, a vocal critic pf the Saudi government, “in every way imaginable” — despite a growing amount of evidence suggesting the regime was directly involved.
“It’s being investigated, it’s being looked at very, very strongly,” the President said in a clip of the interview released Saturday. “And we would be very upset and angry if that were the case. As of this moment, they deny it, and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.”
Turkish authorities have said a team of Saudis killed Khashoggi and U.S. intelligence has revealed officials discussed plans to lure the journalist — a Saudi citizen who had been living in the United States — from his home in Virginia and detain him in Saudi Arabia, according to the Washington Post.
Saudi’s interior minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz in a recent statement condemned the claims as “baseless allegations” and “outright lies.”
Trump added that his son-in-law Jared Kushner, spoke with crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who also said he did not give any order to have Khashoggi killed.
His comments come as a growing number of businesses and groups continue to withdraw from an upcoming global summit In Saudi Arabia.
“There’s a lot at stake and maybe especially so because this man was a reporter,” he said.
“There’s something — you’ll be really surprised to hear me say that — there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case, so we’re going to have to see. We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
When asked whether he would consider imposing sanctions Trump said that “it depends.”
“I’ll give you an example, they are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it .We got it, and we got every bit of it,” he continued.
“I’ll tell you want I don’t want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”
The “60 minutes” interview is slated to air in full Sunday evening.