Trump vows ‘severe punishment’ if Saudi Arabia killed journalist

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President Trump vowed “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia is shown to be behind the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” set to air Sunday.

{mosads}The remarks are the toughest to date on the missing journalist, who is suspected of being killed during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

Trump stopped well short of blaming Saudi Arabia’s government for the disappearance of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote for The Washington Post.

He said that “we don’t know yet” if Khashoggi was murdered, but that the situation is “being looked at very very strongly.”

The president also was hesitant to draw a link between the Khashoggi controversy and a $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh.  

“Everybody in the world wanted that order,” he said of the arms deal. “Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it … I don’t want to hurt jobs, I don’t want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of punishing.”

Trump has come under increasing pressure in recent days over the situation, with Democrats and Republicans in Congress saying that if Saudi Arabia is behind the disappearance of Khashoggi, there should be severe consequences for the U.S. relationship. 

Trump said that Khashoggi being a journalist raises the stakes of the situation.

“This man was a reporter, you’ll be surprised to hear me say that, there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case,” he said.

Khashoggi disappeared after entering the consulate in Istanbul, and the Turkish government has said it has evidence that the journalist was killed and possibly dismembered in the building. 

Khashoggi was never seen leaving the building, and there have been published reports that he was wearing an Apple Watch that may have recorded his killing.

Saudi Arabia’s government has said that it has no knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts and that it is just as interested as others in finding him.

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