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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump arrives to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, June 23, 2019, after traveling from Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump brushed aside the idea of an investigation into the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, just days after an independent United Nations report revealed new details of his death and apparent dismemberment at the hands of Saudi agents.

The U.N. report urged an FBI investigation into the slaying, saying there was "credible evidence" that warranted further investigation into the possible involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Trump said the episode had already been thoroughly investigated "by everybody -- I mean, I've seen so many different reports."

Trump said the subject of Khashoggi "didn't come up" when he and Salman spoke on Thursday, the day after the U.N. report was released. He said the Middle East is "a vicious, hostile place" where other countries are guilty of such behavior.

"Iran's killed many, many people a day," Trump told Chuck Todd, the show's moderator. "Other countries in the Middle East, this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you're going to look at Saudi Arabia -- look at Iran, look at other countries, I won't mention names, and take a look at what's happening. And then you go outside of the Middle East, and you take a look at what's happening with countries. OK?"

U.S. intelligence agencies previously had concluded that the crown prince ordered that Khashoggi be killed when he went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to pick up documents to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Khashoggi, who had been living in the U.S., criticized the Saudi royal family in his writings.

Trump declined last year to penalize Saudi Arabia over the killing.

In the wide-ranging interview, which was taped Friday and broadcast Sunday, Trump stressed the economic benefits of selling arms to the Saudis. The Senate voted last week to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, but Trump has promised to veto the measure.

"I only say they spend $400 [billion] to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment," Trump said. "I'm not like a fool that says, 'We don't want to do business with them.' And by the way, if they don't do business with us, you know what they do? They'll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.

"Take their money," Trump added. "Take their money."

Trump said that, "unlike other countries that don't have money and we have to subsidize everything," Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of American products.

"That means something to me," he said. "It's a big producer of jobs."

Elsewhere in the interview, Trump said he might not raise the issue of election interference when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, arguing that the report by special counsel Robert Mueller had ended any speculation about Russian interference.

"I'll be honest with you, nobody even mentions Russia anymore since the Mueller report," Trump said. "They don't mention it, in all fairness. Nobody mentions Russia anymore. And it was about Russia. It was a hoax."

Trump said he had no way of knowing the FBI's conclusion that emails from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's campaign were stolen by Russia's military intelligence agency. The emails were later released by the website WikiLeaks.

"WikiLeaks ... that's not my deal in life," Trump said. "You know, in other words, I don't know about WikiLeaks. It was a strange name. But there were stories about something WikiLeaks, that they had information. And I say it in a joking manner at a speech. Joking. Everybody laughing. And they made it like it was serious.

"No, I don't want anything bad to happen to our country," he added. "Anything bad happens to this country, I will end it, and I'll end it fast."

Trump also blamed former President Barack Obama for the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border, where migrant children are being detained because of a surge of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.

"What we've done is ... we've ended separation," Trump said. "You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it. Now I said one thing when I ended it, I said, 'Here's what's going to happen. More families are going to come up.' And that's what's happened. But they're really coming up for the economics ... once you ended the separation. But I ended separation. I inherited separation from President Obama."

Critics have argued that Obama's administration and others only separated children from their parents at the border on a case-by-case basis when they feared abuse by the parent or there was a question of parentage. The Trump administration for a time last year routinely separated all migrant children from their parents at the border so the adults could be criminally prosecuted.

Trump said that if Democrats in Congress would change "asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it's good politics, everything would be solved immediately."

"If they change those ... I used to say 45 minutes. It's 15 minutes," he said. "If they changed asylum, and if they changed loopholes, everything on the border would be perfect."

Information for this article was contributed by Darlene Superville of The Associated Press; and by Michael D. Shear of The New York Times.

A Section on 06/24/2019

Print Headline: Won't investigate Saudis over killing, Trump says

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