President Trump on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia has “been a great ally to me” amid an international diplomatic crisis over allegations that Saudi agents killed a U.S.-based Saudi journalist in Istanbul.
Trump told Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan that the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance will depend on “whether or not they knew about it.”
“Saudi Arabia’s our partner, our ally against Iran,” he said. “They’ve been a great ally to me.”
“They’re investing tremendous amounts of money,” he added, referring to America’s $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi kingdom.
Trump earlier in the day denied having any financial interests in Saudi Arabia, pushing back on speculation that he is treading lightly with the Saudis over Khashoggi because of his financial conflicts of interest.
The president, a longtime business mogul, has long-standing and close business ties to the Saudis, with Saudi businessmen spending significant amounts of money at his hotels and properties over decades.
One Saudi royal billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, purchased Trump’s yacht and a stake in New York’s Plaza Hotel in the 1990s when Trump was in financial distress.
Trump’s business ties to the kingdom have come under intense scrutiny in recent days as Trump has repeated Saudi leadership’s denials of involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Turkish authorities say Saudi agents killed and dismembered the Washington Post journalist in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate.
Trump, after praising Saudi Arabia during the Fox Business interview, added, “With all of that being said, you can’t do what we’ve been reading about. We’re gonna learn a lot about it.”
He then discussed the $110 billion arms deal, saying if the U.S. doesn’t give the weapons to Saudi Arabia, the country will turn to “Russia or China.”
“Aren’t we just hurting our own country?” he asked, responding to critics who have said he should end the arms deal. “Because here’s what’s going to happen — [they’ll] buy them from China, buy them from Russia.”
“We’re not really hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves,” he added. “I don’t want to give up a $110 billion order.”