In a press scrum outside the White House on Monday morning, President Donald Trump spoke about the murder of Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, raising a strange theory of rogue killers. “I just spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge of what took place with regard to, as he said, his Saudi Arabia citizen,” Trump said. “These might have been rogue killers.”
Trump frequently turns to hypothetical mode when dealing with crimes that could prove politically explosive. Alternative possibilities tend to muddy the waters. In 2016, he disputed the findings of intelligence agencies that blamed the hacking of the DNC on the Russian government by saying, “it could be Russia, but it could also be China, but it could also be lots of other people, it also could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night, Trump said that there would be “severe punishment” if the Saudi government were responsible for the killing. But he also acknowledged that imposing economic sanctions on Saudi Arabia would cost America many lucrative armaments sales.
“I tell you what I don’t want to do,” Trump told Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes. “Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these com—I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of—punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”