US President Donald Trump has rejected a United Nations (UN) request for the FBI to investigate the brutal murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, expressing concern that the move would affect Americaís trade with the kingdom.
Trump shrugged off the Washington Post columnist’s gruesome murder in an interview with NBC on Sunday, just days after an inquiry by the UN recommended further investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s connection to the killing.
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings said the US should open an FBI inquiry and “pursue criminal prosecutions within the United States, as appropriate.”
Trump said the murder had already been “heavily investigated,” and that Saudi Arabia was an important trading partner with the United States.
“I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment,” the president told NBC.
“I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”
Khashoggi — a vocal critic of bin Salman— was killed and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after being lured into the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.
His fate was unknown for several weeks, until Saudi Arabia confirmed under rising international pressure that he had been murdered at the diplomatic mission.
Riyadh, however, has attempted to shift the blame to bin Salman’s underlings and away from the prince himself. It has not produced Khashoggi’s body to this day.
The Trump administration has sided with the Saudi regime in the scandal, despite a conclusion by the CIA that Prince Mohammed personally ordered the murder.
Trump said last November that the US supports the Saudi regime amid the Khashoggi scandal because any damage to bilateral ties could affect American interests in the Middle East.
The Senate last week voted to block the Trump administration selling arms to Saudi Arabia, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to pass the measure. Trump has pledged to use his presidential veto and push on with the sales.