Trump claims U.S. would be ‘punishing itself’ if it halts Saudi arms sales

By Julia Harte and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that the United States would be “punishing itself” if it halts military sales to Saudi Arabia, even if it is proven that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Riyadh and a U.S. resident, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate. Turkey’s government believes he was deliberately killed inside the building and his body removed.

Trump has forged closer ties with Saudi Arabia and is under international and domestic pressure to help determine what happened to Khashoggi and punish Saudi Arabia if investigations show its government had him killed.

Some U.S. lawmakers have said Washington should block military sales to Riyadh if the allegations are proven. But Trump is opposed.

“I actually think we’d be punishing ourselves if we did that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Saturday.

“There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we’ll do them,” he added, without saying what those measures might be.

(Reporting by Julia Harte and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Kieran Murray and Marguerita Choy)