President Donald Trump on Monday said he is dissatisfied with Saudi Arabia’s explanation for the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, even after speaking to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trump said he has talked with Prince Mohammed since Khashoggi’s death, but urged the kingdom to be more forthcoming about how the journalist was killed.
“I’m not satisfied with what I’ve heard,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a campaign rally in Texas.
Trump also indicated he would not accept the kingdom’s request to have one month to complete its full investigation into the killing.
“I think that’s a long time,” the president said. “There’s no reason for that much.”
Trump vowed he would “get to the bottom of” Khashoggi’s death and said he would know more on Tuesday after “top intelligence people” in Turkey return to the U.S.
But he also stressed his reluctance to cancel or suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, claiming without evidence that losing Saudi investments in the U.S. could cost 1 million jobs.
“I don’t want to lose all of that investment that’s being made in our country. I don’t want to lose a million jobs,” Trump said.
Trump is seeking to fend off criticism of his response to the death of Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
The Saudi government said last Friday that Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family who was living in Virginia, died during a physical altercation with officials who sought to bring him back to the kingdom. The government said the officials were not officially approved.
The Saudi explanation was immediately rejected by many world leaders and members of Congress, but Trump said last Friday he found the Saudi’s initial investigation to be credible.
Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was tortured, dismembered and killed by a 15-person Saudi hit squad that included a forensic doctor wielding a bone saw.
Critics have raised doubts about whether the apparently complex operation around Khashoggi’s death could have been authorized without the approval of Prince Mohammed and questioned whether Trump is willing to punish the Saudis, whom Trump has put at the center of his foreign policy in the Middle East.
Trump reversed course on his initial endorsement of the Saudi findings last weekend in an interview with The Washington Post, the publication for which Khashoggi used to write, saying “there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.”
Saudi Arabia initially said Khashoggi walked out of the consulate and denied any knowledge of his disappearance before changing their account late last week.
Trump has previously said he is weighing sanctions against any Saudis deemed to be responsible for Khashoggi’s death but it’s not clear when, or if, any U.S. punishments will come.