U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene with the U.S. Justice Department in the case against a Chinese telecommunications executive if it would help secure a trade deal with Beijing.
“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters in the Oval Office.
Trump expressed optimism that he could strike a trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the two countries struggle to resolve a dispute that has contributed to recent U.S. stock market declines and raised questions about whether economic turmoil could beset the president in the new year.
At the request of U.S. authorities, Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested earlier this month in Vancouver on charges of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The arrest came the same day Trump and Xi declared a 90-day truce in their trade war during summit talks in Buenos Aires.
Trump, who wants China to open up its markets to more American-made products and stop what Washington calls the theft of intellectual property, said he had not yet spoken to Xi about the case against Huawei’s executive.
Over the course of the 30-minute interview, Trump also addressed the controversy surrounding the Oct. 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying he stood firmly beside Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite accusations that he was the mastermind of it.
Trump refused to comment on whether the crown prince was complicit in the murder, but he provided perhaps his most explicit show of support for MbS, as the prince is known, since Khashoggi’s death more than two months ago.
“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump said. Asked if standing beside Saudi Arabia means also standing by the crown prince, Trump said, “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”
While Trump has condemned the murder of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist who was often critical of MbS, he has given the benefit of the doubt to the prince with whom he has cultivated a deep relationship.
Trump again reiterated on Tuesday that MbS “vehemently denies” involvement in a killing that has sparked outrage around the world.
Despite Trump’s desire to maintain close ties to Saudi Arabia, several of his fellow Republicans have joined Democrats in blaming the crown prince for Khashoggi’s death and backing legislation to respond by ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, imposing new sanctions and stopping weapons sales.