ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that Congress "will be very much involved" in formulating the U.S. response to the case of missing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump told reporters in Arizona that lawmakers "indirectly and directly" will influence the U.S. response after he earlier warned against calls from some in Congress to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
"I'm gonna have very much Congress involved in determining what to do," he said. "I will very much listen to what Congress has to say."
Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. He has not been seen or heard from since.
His case has prompted a terse response from Democrats and Republicans alike who are weighing imposing harsh penalties on the Kingdom if it is determined to have killed Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who moved to Virginia.
The bipartisan furor has been stoked by media reports alleging grisly details of his demise at the hands of a team reportedly sent at the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler.
Saudi Arabia has denied involvement.
Lawmakers from both chambers, meanwhile, have openly discussed imposing sanctions on Riyadh, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East, as well as an end to support for Riyadh's air campaign in Yemen and a possible end to arms sales to the Kingdom valued at $110 billion.
Trump continued to voice opposition to the arms embargo, saying Saudi Arabia buys $450 billion worth of U.S. goods supporting at least 600,000 American jobs. It was not immediately clear what accounts for the additional $340 billion.
"I will in this case make certain recommendations," Trump said. "It would be very hurtful to this country if we said, 'oh, we're not going to sell it to you.' So there are other things we can do," he said.
"I will very much listen to what Congress has to say. They feel very strongly about it also," he added.
Should Congress seek to end arms sales over the president's objections, Trump could veto the move if it passes, but he would risk an override by a two-thirds majority of lawmakers in each chamber — a scenario more likely if Democrats take either chamber in November's midterm elections. Republicans currently control the Senate and the House.
Of the possible U.S. responses, Trump said sanctions "could be" one of the consequences.