Trump: US-Saudi relationship 'excellent,' but journalist's disappearance 'no good'

Trump: US-Saudi relationship 'excellent,' but journalist's disappearance 'no good'
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE on Thursday called U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia "excellent" but indicated that could change if the Saudi government is found to have orchestrated the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

"I would say they're excellent," Trump said of the relationship with the country during an interview on "Fox & Friends" when asked what is at stake given Khashoggi's disappearance, which occurred last week at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

ADVERTISEMENT

Khashoggi is a U.S. resident who has been critical of the Saudi government, which has close ties to the Trump administration, and his disappearance has triggered international outrage. 

The only irritant Trump singled out with Saudi Arabia was his belief the U.S. is paying too much to defend them, saying "there would be no Saudi Arabia if there wasn't a United States because we protected them." 

When pressed by "Fox & Friends" hosts if U.S.-Saudi ties would be jeopardized if it was discovered that Khashoggi was killed, Trump said, "You're right."

"I have to find out what happened. I mean, I do have to find out. And we're probably getting closer than you might think. But I have to find out what happened," the president said.

He indicated that U.S. investigators are in the area looking into the incident. 

"We have investigators over there and we're working with Turkey and frankly we're working with Saudi Arabia," he said. "We want to find out what happened. He went in, and it doesn't look like he came out. It certainly doesn't look like he's around."

Trump's comments come days after The Washington Post, citing U.S. intelligence intercepts, reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hatched a plot to lure Khashoggi back to his home country and detain him.

"Well it would be a really sad thing, and we will probably know in the very short future," Trump said when asked about the report. "We don't like it. I don't like it. No good." 

The incident has sparked scrutiny of the Trump administration's close ties to the Saudi government.  

The crown prince has cultivated relationships with several of the president's closest confidants, most notably his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFive things to know about Trump confidant Tom Barrack Dems open new front against Trump Dems launch investigation into Trump administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia MORE

Trump has faced criticism for being too slow to respond to the disappearance of Khashoggi. The journalist has contributed to The Washington Post and was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. due to his criticism of his country's leadership. 

Crown Prince Mohammed has billed himself as a reformer and has offered to partner with the U.S. in securing a peace deal with Israel and the Palestinians, but he has also sparked condemnation for his efforts to consolidate power by imprisoning his rivals, which the crown prince has couched as an anti-corruption drive.