Trump defends $110B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Trump defends $110B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAustralia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israeli capital, won't move embassy Mulvaney will stay on as White House budget chief Trump touts ruling against ObamaCare: ‘Mitch and Nancy’ should pass new health-care law MORE on Saturday, shortly after vowing to hand out a “severe punishment” to Saudi Arabia if it is found to have killed a missing dissident journalist, said he wants to preserve a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi kingdom.

Trump said if the United States pulled out of the deal, Russia and China would rush in to sell their own armaments, potentially costing domestic jobs.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s the best equipment in the world but if they don’t buy it from us, they’re going to buy it from Russia or they’re going to buy it from China or they’re going to buy it from other countries,” he said Saturday at an Oval Office event celebrating the release of an American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned in Turkey on spying charges for almost two years.

“Russia and China wanted it very badly,” he added of the arms deal.

Trump called it “the largest order ever made” and said it would support 450,000 jobs domestically.

“That’s a tremendous order for our companies. It’s a tremendous order, really from an economic development standpoint,” he said, noting that Texas stands to reap big economic benefits.

“In terms of the order of $110 billion — think of that, $110 billion — all they’re going to do is give it to other countries and I think that would be very foolish of our country,” he added.

Trump said other measures can be implemented to punish Saudi Arabia for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2.

“There are other things that we can do that would be very severe,” Trump said, adding that he would be meeting with his foreign policy and national security advisers to discuss the options.

The president, however, cautioned that U.S. intelligence officials must first make a final determination about what happened before any action is taken.

Khashoggi has not yet been officially declared dead, although he is widely suspected of having been killed by 15 Saudi agents who entered Turkey the day of his disappearance.

“At this point it’s looking like he perhaps won’t be or isn’t around and that’s very sad,” Trump said. “I think we would have known by now.”

The arms deal still must overcome opposition within the Senate, where Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMore oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it MORE (N.J.), the top ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, has put a hold on the transaction.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force MORE (R-Tenn.) on Thursday said he doesn’t expect the arms deal to move forward anytime soon. 

“The arms sales have already been held for some time,” he said. “The defense contractor that’s most interested in the most current [deal] was in my office two weeks ago before this happened and I said, ‘Look, do not push this. If it came to a vote today in the Senate it would fail.’ ”

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynKevin McLaughlin tapped to serve as NRSC executive director for 2020 On The Money: Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming | Trump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff | China agrees to 3-month freeze of auto tariffs | Dem to seek Deutsche Bank records of Trump's personal finances The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies MORE (Texas) said feelings about Saudi Arabia within his conference are “complex.”

— Updated 3:55 p.m.