02:49 - Source: CNN
UN official: Saudi Arabia responsible for Khashoggi's murder
Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump will not say whether he’ll follow a United Nations recommendation to order the FBI to investigate the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, reasoning that other countries, including Iran, have done worse and asserting that keeping Saudi Arabia’s business with the US is more important than any desire to punish the government for his killing.

Khashoggi died after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Riyadh initially denied any knowledge of the incident, but Saudi officials later claimed that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to the Saudi crown prince’s inner circle, were responsible for the journalist’s death.

Earlier this month, the UN laid out in a report evidence that suggests not only did Saudi officials at the highest level plan and carry out Khashoggi’s killing, but that they carefully planned how best to hide the murder from the international community.

Asked whether he would follow a UN recommendation to launch an FBI investigation into the matter, Trump told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I think it’s been heavily investigated … by everybody.”

Pressed further on the subject, Trump suggested other countries in the Middle East were guilty of worse.

“Here’s where I am, you ready? Iran’s killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East, this is a hostile place. … If you’re going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries, I won’t mention names, and take a look at what’s happening,” Trump said.

The President also suggested that getting Saudi Arabia’s business is prioritized over any punishment to the Saudi government for Khashoggi’s killing.

“I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment –,” Trump said.

Todd interrupted, “That’s the price. As long as they keep buying … you’ll overlook some of this behavior.”

“No, no … But I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them,’ ” Trump responded. “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.”

CNN’s Nic Robertson and Luke McGee contributed to this report.