Trump won’t say if he’ll ask FBI to probe Khashoggi killing

US president declines to commit to ordering the FBI to probe the journalist’s murder.

Activists protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi hold a candlelight vigil outside Saudi Arabia''s consulate in Istanbul, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. The posters read in Arabic:'' Khas
Trump said Khashoggi's killing has been 'heavily investigated' [File: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo]

United States President Donald Trump has declined to commit to ordering the FBI to investigate the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and suggested that Saudi pledges to spend billions of dollars on US military equipment were more important to him because of the impact on the economy. 

In an interview broadcast on NBC on Sunday, Trump said Khashoggi’s killing has been “heavily investigated”.

In a highly-anticipated report into the murder released on Wednesday, the United Nations extrajudicial executions investigator, Agnes Callamard, said there was “credible evidence” to warrant investigation and financial sanctions against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is commonly known, over Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

It has been widely reported that the CIA has concluded that MBS ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi. The US Senate has also adopted a resolution naming MBS as “responsible” for the murder.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied the involvement of the crown prince.

Khashoggi’s writings were critical of the Saudi de-facto leader.

“Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of (American) product. That means something to me. It’s a big producer of jobs,” Trump said, adding that the subject of Khashoggi “didn’t come up” when he and the crown prince spoke last Thursday, largely about Iran.

Khashoggi’s remains have not been found but Callamard has said that she and her team of forensic and legal experts had access to a part of “chilling and gruesome audio materials” of his death obtained by the Turkish intelligence services.

Trump declined last year to punish Saudi Arabia over the killing. Khashoggi had been living in the US at the time of his death.

Trump said he’s “not like a fool” that will refuse to do business with the US ally, arguing that the kingdom will turn to US rivals China and Russia if Washington refuses to sell arms to the Saudis.

“Take their money. Take their money,” Trump said.

The Senate voted last week to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Trump has promised to veto the measure.

‘Baseless allegations’

In the wake of the Callamard report, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir said it contained nothing new.

“The report of the rapporteur in the human rights council contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility,” he said.

Saudi officials initially denied Khashoggi’s killing at the consulate, saying he had left the premises. The kingdom changed its narrative several times before later acknowledging he was killed, blaming “rogue” security agents.

The Saudi public prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects in November, including five who could face the death penalty on charges of ordering and committing the crime.

But Callamard called for the trial to be suspended, citing concerns over secret hearings and a potential miscarriage of justice.

Source: News Agencies