Trump, who made his comments upon landing in Ohio to headline a campaign rally, said he plans to call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman “at some point” to discuss Khashoggi’s unexplained disappearance.
Trump has long boasted of his warm relationship with Salman, who feted the U.S. president when he visited Riyadh in May 2017 for his first foreign stop while in office.
Asked whether Saudi Arabia’s history of authoritarian rule and restrictions on human rights had been overlooked for too long, Trump defended the oil-rich Arabian Desert kingdom.
“I think a lot of records are overlooked,” Trump said. “If you look at Iran, if you look at some of the other countries, if you take a look at Syria, if you take a look at a lot of countries, a lot of countries’ records have been overlooked. But this is a very serious thing and we’re looking at it in a very serious manner.”
Saudi Arabia is hosting the Future Investment Initiative, a high-profile international business conference, next week in Riyadh, but several media organizations as well as some headlining attendees have withdrawn because of the Khashoggi situation.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is scheduled to represent the Trump administration at the conference, and he said Friday morning on CNBC that he was planning on going “at this point.”
But Trump told reporters Friday afternoon that it was undetermined whether Mnuchin would attend.
“He will make that determination,” Trump said. “A lot of people are going over to the investment conference. We’ll see what happens. Maybe some won’t be going. We’ll make that determination very soon.”