WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that his administration would inflict severe punishment on Saudi Arabia if the Middle Eastern Kingdom was found to have played a part in the disappearance of a dissident journalist.
Trump made the remarks in a rare network interview on the CBS show “60 Minutes” with Lesley Stahl.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a permanent resident of the US in self-imposed exile who penned a column in the Washington Post and was a fierce critic of Riyadh’s human rights violations and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies – has been missing since he entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2 to pick up the paperwork needed for his planned marriage.
Turkish media have widely reported that Khashoggi is feared by officials to have been murdered and dismembered inside the building by a Saudi hit squad, who may have removed the mutilated corpse in the consulate’s diplomatic pouch, which is protected by international law from being searched by authorities.
Trump had previously said that even if the Saudis were to blame for Khashoggi’s disappearance, he would not halt billions in arms sales to the country.
“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States, because you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” Trump said.
He also took pains to emphasize that Khashoggi was not a US citizen.
“It’s in Turkey, and it’s not a citizen, as I understand it,” he said.