During a press availability on Thursday, the supposed leader of the free world downplayed the apparent death of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi regime as a cost of doing business, and pointed out that the Virginia-based dissident journalist was merely a permanent resident of the United States.
“Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen, is that right, or?… he’s a permanent resident, okay,” President Trump said. “We don’t like it even a little bit. But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing that they have four or five alternatives — two very good alternatives — that would not be acceptable to me.”
TRUMP: "Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge Khashoggi is not a US citizen, is that right? He's a permanent resident, okay… as to whether we should stop $110b from being spent in this country, that would not be acceptable to me." pic.twitter.com/6tlkJ5shbt
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 11, 2018
Trump’s “$110 billion” comment refers to an arms deal his administration struck with Saudi Arabia in May.
Earlier during the press availability, Trump was unable to describe what exactly the U.S. is doing to investigate the apparent death of Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, beyond saying, “we are looking at it, we are looking at it very strongly.” He characterized Khashoggi’s potential murder as “a terrible thing, assuming it happened.”
Asked about the possibility of punishing Saudi Arabia, Trump made clear that he prioritizes doing business with the country more than he does basic human rights.
“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country,” Trump said. “They are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country.”
Trump’s financial relationship with Saudi Arabia goes beyond arms sales. As the Washington Post reported in August, the Saudi regime has been pumping money directly into Trump’s pockets through his hotels.
The general manager of the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan had a rare bit of good news to report to investors this spring: After two years of decline, revenue from room rentals went up 13 percent in the first three months of 2018.
What caused the uptick at President Trump’s flagship hotel in New York? One major factor: “a last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” wrote general manager Prince A. Sanders in a May 15 letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
Neither Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nor members of the royal family stayed at Trump’s hotel, Sanders said: He said the Trump hotel didn’t have suites big enough to accommodate them. But “due to our close industry relationships,” he wrote, “we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers.”
While Trump expresses reluctance about punishing Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s apparent death, on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 22 senators sent him a letter asking him “to investigate the incident under the Magnitsky act, which could potentially lead to sanctions against Saudi Arabia,” as ThinkProgress detailed.