WASHINGTON — President Trump declared his support for the Saudi regime today in a lengthy statement casting doubt on the CIA assessment that the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was traced back directly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The CIA reportedly dismissed Trump’s earlier suggestion that the hit team that went from Saudi Arabia to Istanbul to kill and dismember Khashoggi, a regime critic who had been living in exile for a year in Virginia, may have been rogue elements disconnected from any official state orders.
Investigators have heard the recording that captured Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate early last month. In an interview with Fox News aired Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Trump, “Have you, one, either heard the tape yourself or been briefed on it, and if so, to your mind what does it show?”
“We have the tape. I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape,” Trump replied.
“Why don’t you want to hear it, sir?” Wallace asked.
“Because it’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape,” Trump said. “I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it. In fact, I said to the people ‘should I?’ They said, ‘you really shouldn’t, there’s no reason.’ I know exactly — I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it. It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.”
Today, Trump issued a statement saying the administration stands with the House of Saud and won’t be levying any new punishments on the Saudi regime over Khashoggi’s murder.
Trump’s statement began by declaring “The world is a very dangerous place!” and saying that Saudi Arabia “has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.” He then touted Saudi spending in the U.S. on military equipment contracts.
“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone,” Trump continued. “Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.”
“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” he said.
“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the president added, calling the regime “a great ally.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said last week that there’s a “heightened level of concern and increasing demand for action here in the Senate” over the murder of Khashoggi.
“Everything points to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MbS, ordering
@washingtonpost journalist Jamal #Khashoggi’s killing. The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders,” Corker tweeted Saturday.
Trump acknowledged “there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so.”
“I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world,” he added.