While many are still searching for answers regarding the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump called Saudi Arabia’s explanation of his death credible. He also said that the arrests of more than a dozen Saudi nationals were “a good first step.”
“It’s a big step. There’s a lot of people involved,” Trump said while speaking during a roundtable with top defense contractors in Arizona.
Trump also noted that “Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable.”
When the president was asked if he found the Saudi’s explanation credible, Trump responded, “I do.”
Trump told the group of defense contractors that he does not want to cancel or suspend billions of dollars in Saudi arms purchases as a punishment on the country. He would instead like to see “some form of sanction.”
“I would prefer that we don’t use as retribution cancelling $110 billion worth of work,” Trump said.
The president also claimed without offering evidence that those arms deals were critical to more than 1 million U.S. jobs.
Lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), have said the Saudi government’s explanation released Friday for the death of Khashoggi is not credible.
The Saudi government claimed in a statement that after the journalist entered its consulate, he was involved in a physical altercation that led to his death.
“The claim that Khashoggi was killed while brawling with 15 men dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not at all credible. If he was fighting with those sent to capture or kill him, it was for his life,” Schiff tweeted Friday.
Saudi Arabia’s statement Friday was the first time it had acknowledged that Khashoggi died after he entered its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
The journalist was last seen entering the Saudi consulate to obtain documents for his marriage. Turkish authorities have claimed that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives in the consulate.
The Saudi kingdom had previously denied any knowledge of the journalist’s whereabouts.
Eighteen Saudi nationals have been arrested and are being questioned in connection with the case, the kingdom said Friday in its statement reported by state-controlled media outlets.