Trump on missing Saudi journalist: Pledged to get to ‘bottom of it,’ vowed ‘severe punishment’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What You Need to Know: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

President Donald Trump sat down with "60 Minutes" for his first interview with the television news magazine since taking office.

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The wide-ranging interview with Lesley Stahl, which aired Sunday night, included Trump's opinion on climate change in the wake of Hurricane Michael, North Korea and its dictator Kim Jong Un, Chinese tariffs, the future of NATO and even the possibility of more turnover at the White House.

One of the more pressing questions during the interview involved missing Saudi dissident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump pledged to get to the bottom of what happened to Khashoggi, who went into the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2 to pick up papers he needed to get married and disappeared.

Turkish officials have blamed a Saudi hit squad, accusing the kingdom’s ruling family of ordering the murder of Khashoggi. Turkish officials have said they have audio and video of Khashoggi being tortured and murdered inside the embassy.

Saudi Arabian officials have denied the accusations.

“Nobody knows yet, but we’ll probably be able to find out,” Trump said. “It’s being investigated. It’s being looked at very, very strongly. And we would be very upset and angry if that were the case.”

“As of this moment, they deny it,” the president said. “Could it be them? Yes.”

Trump appeared confident that his administration will find out what happened.

Explore>> Related: Jamal Khashoggi: Who is he; what do we know about his disappearance?

“In the not-too-distant future, I think we’ll know an answer,” he told Stahl.

Trump seemed reluctant to jeopardize a weapons deal with the Saudis, though, and said he didn’t want to “cut that off” and that there are other ways of “punishing” the regime.

"There's a lot at stake," Trump said. "And maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There's something – you'll be surprised to hear me say that. There's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case … We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia agreed last week to conduct a joint investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance amid international outrage over the journalist’s disappearance.

International media and business groups have also pulled out of an economic summit in Riyadh this week as the fallout and the fear over Khashoggi's mysterious vanishing has spooked investors and others who may have had business plans with the Saudis.

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