WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump says he doesn't want to cancel a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia over missing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Since Khashoggi's disappearance and reports indicating he was tortured then brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, there has been intense pressure for companies to cancel business with the country.
But, Trump says there's more on the line than just punishing the country.
Trump, during a Saturday afternoon news conference in the Oval Office, said "we would be punishing ourselves" by canceling arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He said the U.S. was competing against China and Russia for the $110 billion deal with the country.
Trump says the sale is a "tremendous order for our companies" and will help supply jobs across the country. He described leaving the deal as "foolish" and said the U.S. could do "other things" to punish Saudi Arabia if needed.
The president said he planned to speak with Saudi King Salman Saturday evening or Sunday. He said he also planned to meet with Khashoggi’s family and invited them to the White House.
Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the Saudi ruling family who was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S., was last seen Oct. 2. Surveillance footage shows him entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He is not seen leaving.
His disappearance and the reports of his possible murder have set off a firestorm of accusations, criticism and political tension between a strong U.S. ally in the Middle East.
During Trump's remarks Saturday, he also confirmed reports that Turkey claims to have audio and video of Khashoggi’s killing. The president said he had not seen or heard the recordings but planned to "soon."
Trump was also asked if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would still attend a Saudi investment conference. He deferred the question to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said they still need to "evaluate" the situation.
Trump talked about the situation in depth during an interview with CBS’ "60 Minutes." He said the Saudi government is vehemently denying the allegations that they had Khashoggi killed.
Trump, who’s attacked the press as the “enemy of the people,” told CBS “there’s a lot of stake, and maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. … You’ll be surprised to hear me say that.”
Trump promised, “we’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
Contributing: Associated Press