President Donald Trump said Tuesday the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives will not derail the U.S.-Saudi relationship — even if Prince Mohammed bin Salman was found to bear responsibility.
“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event –- maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement.
“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,” he said. “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.”
A written statement, issued in the President's name from the White House, puts the CIA's reported high confidence assessment on par with Saudi denials. How appointed intelligence leaders could continue to serve after this betrayal is beyond me. https://t.co/bulnuF1mpD
— Ned Price (@nedprice) November 20, 2018
The gruesome murder of Khashoggi, who vanished after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, has hugely embarrassed Washington.
The killing torpedoed a powerful PR campaign led by the crown prince to show that the conservative Islamic state has embarked on a new reformist path.
It also threw into question the White House strategy to make MBL, as the royal is widely known, its main partner in the tinderbox region.
Trump has for weeks resisted accepting mounting evidence of Saudi government involvement in the Khashoggi killing — and accusations that MBL ordered the hit.
However, with The New York Times reporting that the CIA has definitively concluded that Prince Mohammed was involved, the focus turned to whether Trump would punish his Saudi partner or find a way to let it slide.
In his statement, released by the White House press office, Trump took the latter option, saying that the U.S.-Saudi relationship was more important than the possible involvement in the crime of Prince Mohammed.
He noted that Saudi King Salman and the crown prince “vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”
Also, Saudi Arabia, he said, provides crucial help in the U.S. struggle to contain Iranian ambitions, as well as having committed to $450 billion in U.S. weapons contracts and other investments. In addition, the Saudis have helped in keeping oil prices low, Trump said.
Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of. Perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests— just like the Finns do?
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 20, 2018
Trump acknowledged a strong push in Congress for the United States to sanction MBL and take other action against the Saudi leadership.
“I understand 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,” he said.
“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. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!”
“It’s a very complex situation. It’s a shame, but it is what it is,” President Trump says after releasing a statement standing by Saudi Arabia, despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “It’s America first.” pic.twitter.com/ZIzgCZY6wl
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 20, 2018