Trump defends $110B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Trump defends $110B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview 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.

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“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) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president 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 CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy 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 CornynOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE (Texas) said feelings about Saudi Arabia within his conference are “complex.”

— Updated 3:55 p.m.