President Trump says he still has not received convincing intelligence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia knew about Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
‘Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,’ Trump told the Washington Post on Tuesday as he prepared to travel to Argentina for Group of 20 summit. ‘But he denies it. And people around him deny it.’
Trump danced around an assessment that Mohammad bin Salman almost certainly knew about the assassination by saying, ‘The CIA did not say affirmatively he did it.’
‘I’m not saying that they’re saying he didn’t do it, but they didn’t say it affirmatively,’ he stated.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he had nothing to do with with the death, but the CIA has confidentially assessed that couldn’t plausibly be the case
President Trump says he still has not received convincing intelligence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia knew about Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, even though he admitted that the CIA never told him that bin Salman did not do it
The president had previously been called out for his claims about the CIA by Democrats including the ranking member of the House Intelligence committee.
Rep. Adam Schiff said that Trump was being ‘dishonest’ when he claimed that the CIA offered no assessment on the crown prince’s involvement.
Trump has been dogged by the claims that resurfaced on Tuesday at the White House during a briefing for reporters in advance of his trip to Buenos Aires.
His national security adviser admitted that he had not listened to an audio tape provided to the American government by Turkey that allegedly documents the Washington Post columnist’s final moments.
‘Why do you think I should? What do you think I’ll learn from it?’ he testily told a reporter. ‘Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it?’
John Bolton also claimed in the briefing that the White House was not preventing CIA Director Gina Haspel from attending a briefing for senators on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Only the defense secretary and secretary of state are attending the meeting that Haspel has reportedly been barred from.
The president is leaving Washington on Thursday for Buenos Aires, where the Bolton says he’ll sit down with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but not bin Salman.
Bolton cited a busy scheduled at the Group of 20 summit as a reason he would not sit down with the crown prince face to face after repeatedly professing his supposed innocence in the Khashoggi murder.
Trump has been insisting for weeks that he is right not to condemn Saudi Arabian leaders for Khashoggi’s death and continued to claim Tuesday that the nation’s crown prince may have been in the dark about the attack.
Trump has been insisting for weeks that he is right not to condemn Saudi Arabian leaders for Khashoggi’s murder and continued to claim Tuesday that the nation’s crown prince may have been in the dark about the attack
‘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!’ Trump said in a statement a week ago that irked Republicans and Democrats.
Trump claimed ‘we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi’ and therefore the U.S. ‘intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.’
The Saudis have seized upon Trump’s refusal to condemn bin Salman as evidence that the CIA’s point connecting him with the murder is incorrect.
‘What we’ve heard is the president say that the CIA report is not what people say it is and so we have to go by this,’ Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir told CBS News.
‘If you have any evidence, or any government has any evidence that it would like to make available to the Saudi courts, I’m sure the courts would be pleased to receive it.’
Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Saudi officials initially denied his death was murder.
They later conceded he’d been killed but called it a ‘rogue operation’ without the knowledge of bin Salman.
The CIA has confidentially assessed that couldn’t plausibly be the case. It’s unlikely that the de facto ruler of the kingdom was unaware of what was happening inside the consulate where Khashoggi was tortured and then murdered.
Speaking to that point, Schiff said Sunday on CNN that while he could not disclose the contents of the CIA’s report on the Khashoggi killing, ‘I can say that I think the president is being dishonest with the American people.
‘It would be one thing if the president were leveling with the American people and saying, OK, this is what happened, this is what we know, this is what took place, but, nonetheless, we need to maintain a relationship with the kingdom. But that’s not what he’s doing.
‘And I just think that it causes our standing in the world to plummet. It telegraphs to despots around the world they can murder people with impunity, and that this president will have his — their back, as long as they praise him, as long as they do business with him, potentially. And that cannot be the guiding principle behind our foreign policy,’ Schiff said on ‘State of the Union’ as he lectured the president.
Donald Trump insisted he was right not to condemn Saudi Arabian leaders for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder after harsh criticism of his pronouncement that the crown prince may have been in the dark, because of the low cost of oil prices
Trump has held the declining price of oil, of which Saudi Arabia is the top exporter, as a reason for maintaining a positive relationship with the kingdom without explicitly saying that’s why he’s letting bin Salman off the hook.
‘They’re keeping the oil prices low. I see that yesterday, one of the papers, I was blamed for causing traffic jams because I have the oil prices so low. Well, I have the oil prices low because I’m jawboning them and others all the time to keep them low. Nobody ever did that,’ Trump proclaimed on Thanksgiving Day.
The president claims that Russia and China would sweep in and take Saudi investments for themselves if America introduced tough new sanctions on the oil-rich nation.
‘They’re buying their equipment from us. And remember this: They don’t have to buy it from us. They can buy it from Russia and they can buy it from China,’ he asserted.
Trump’s original position entirely ignored the CIA’s findings that MBS had to be aware of the killing. His comments prompted an immediate backlash from prominent senators.
‘I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,’ Sen. Bob Corker tweeted.
But as Trump on the White House’s South Lawn had explained a day before: ‘It is all about America first – it is America first.
‘We’re not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars of orders and let Russia, China, everybody else have them,’ he said.
The president has claimed a $110 billion investment from the Saudis in defense equipment that would disappear if the U.S. sanctioned the nation’s military sector.
‘If you think I’m going to let Russia have that money or those things, if you think I’m going to let China make the military equipment — hey, China and Russia would love to make a hundred billion dollars worth of military equipment from Saudi Arabia. We have the contracts. They wanted those contracts,’ he said last Tuesday.
‘That would be a big fat beautiful gift to Russia and China. They are not going to get that gift.’
If he were to act against the kingdom, Trump suggested there would be a global economic meltdown.
‘Right now we have oil prices in great shape. I’m not going to destroy the world economy, and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.’
He added, ‘I think the statement was pretty obvious what I said. It’s about America First.’
Trump’s stunning remarks came as he was departing the White House for a family holiday at Mar-a-Lago.
And it was just days after the president admitted he had not listened to an audio tape provided by the Turkish government of Khashoggi’s murder, because it was too gruesome.
‘It was very violent, very vicious and terrible,’ Trump told told Fox News.
Trump said then that he didn’t know if MBS was lying to him when he told him that he had no knowledge of the murder.
In the interview for Fox News Sunday the president replied: ‘Well, will anybody really know? All right, will anybody really know? But he did have certainly people that were reasonably close to him and close to him that were probably involved.
‘You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But at the same time we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good,’ he explained.
The president says he is still open to sanctions that could be imposed by Congress in the lame duck session but would only support them if they were in the United States’ national security interests.
He insisted, ‘The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone.’
Yet, the U.S. president said he would take no further action because the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is too valuable.
‘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,’ he again asserted.
His statement, sent early Tuesday afternoon, claimed, ‘They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.’
Members of Congress, including Schiff, were incredulous.
‘It is true that our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, not just its Crown Prince, and that must factor into our response. But to suggest ‘maybe he did and maybe he didn’t’ or that we are incapable of finding out the truth, or that knowing the truth our silence can be bought with arms sales, undermines respect for the Office of the Presidency, the credibility of our intelligence community and America’s standing as a champion of human rights,’ Schiff responded.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, another California Democrat, said, ‘I’m shocked that President Trump said there will be no punishment for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.’
‘I plan to vote against any future arms sales and appropriation to Saudi Arabia. I also believe that the United States should consider sanctions against the crown prince and that the Saudi ambassador to the United States should not be allowed to continue in that role,’ she insisted.
Vice President Mike Pence had told reporters while he was in Australia that the U.S would hold ‘all of those who are responsible’ for the murder accountable.
‘The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,’ Pence told reporters traveling with him on Saturday.
Trump then released a puzzling statement defending the Saudis and the crown prince.
‘King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,’ he again pointed out.
It was more love than MBS was getting from inside the royal family.
Sources close to the royal court told Reuters that princes and cousins from inside the Al Saud family are asking for a change in the line of succession. They acknowledged that the 82-year-old king is unlikely to ditch his son, however.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Key moments surrounding the writer’s disappearance and death
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the kingdom’s policies and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say a 15-men team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer, while Saudi Arabia says he died in a ‘fistfight.’
Here are some key moments in the slaying of the Washington Post columnist:
BEFORE HIS DISAPPEARANCE
September 2017: The Post publishes the first column by Khashoggi in its newspaper, in which the former royal court insider and longtime journalist writes about going into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Prince Mohammed. His following columns criticize the prince and the kingdom’s direction.
September 28, 2018: Over a year after the Post published his first column, Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, seeking documents in order to get married. He’s later told to return October 2, his fiancee Hatice Cengiz says. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a plan or a ‘road map’ to kill Khashoggi was devised in Saudi Arabia during this time.
September 29: Khashoggi travels to London and speaks at a conference.
October 1: Khashoggi returns to Istanbul. At around 4.30pm, a three-person Saudi team arrives in Istanbul on a scheduled flight, checks in to their hotels then visits the consulate, according to Erdogan. The Turkish president says another group of officials from the consulate travel to a forest in Istanbul’s outskirts and to the nearby city of Yalova on a ‘reconnaissance’ trip.
Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2
THE DAY OF HIS DISAPPEARANCE
3.28am, October 2: A private jet arrives at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport carrying some members of what Turkish media will refer to as a 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad.’ Other members of the team arrive by two commercial flights in the afternoon. Erdogan says the team includes Saudi security and intelligence officials and a forensics expert. They meet at the Saudi Consulate. One of the first things they do is to dismantle a hard disk connected to the consulate’s camera system, the president says.
11.50am: Khashoggi is called to confirm his appointment at the consulate later that day, Erdogan says.
1.14pm: Surveillance footage later leaked to Turkish media shows Khashoggi walking into the main entrance of the Saudi Consulate. No footage made public ever shows him leaving. His fiancee waits outside, pacing for hours.
3.07pm: Surveillance footage shows vehicles with diplomatic license plates leaving the Saudi Consulate for the consul general’s home some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.
5.50pm: Khashoggi’s fiancee alerts authorities, saying he may have been forcibly detained inside the consulate or that something bad may have happened to him, according to Erdogan.
7pm: A private plane from Saudi Arabia carries six members of the alleged Saudi squad from Istanbul to Cairo, the next day returning to Riyadh.
11pm: Seven members of the alleged Saudi squad leave on another private jet to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which the next day returns to Riyadh. Two others leave by commercial flights.
Erdogan confirms reports that a ‘body double’ – a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and a beard – leaves the consulate building for Riyadh with another person on a scheduled flight later that day.
CCTV images showed a a private jet alleged to have been used by a group of Saudi men suspected of being involved in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death
October 3: Khashoggi’s fiancee and the Post go public with his disappearance. Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi visited the consulate and exited shortly thereafter. Turkish officials suggest Khashoggi might still be in the consulate. Prince Mohammed tells Bloomberg: ‘We have nothing to hide.’
October 4: Saudi Arabia says on its state-run news agency that the consulate is carrying out ‘follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building.’
October 5: The Post prints a blank column in its newspaper in solidarity with Khashoggi, headlined: ‘A missing voice.’
October 6: The Post, citing anonymous Turkish officials, reports Khashoggi may have been killed in the consulate in a ‘preplanned murder’ by a Saudi team.
October 7: A friend of Khashoggi tells the AP that officials told him the writer was killed at the consulate. The consulate rejects what it calls ‘baseless allegations.’
October 8: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey is summoned over Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing.
October 9: Turkey says it will search the Saudi Consulate as a picture of Khashoggi walking into the diplomatic post surfaces.
October 10: Surveillance footage is leaked of Khashoggi and the alleged Saudi squad that killed him. Khashoggi’s fiancee asks President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for help.
October 11: Turkish media describes Saudi squad as including royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert. Trump calls Khashoggi’s disappearance a ‘bad situation’ and promises to get to the bottom of it.
October 12: Trump again pledges to find out what happened to Khashoggi.
October 13: A pro-government newspaper reports that Turkish officials have an audio recording of Khashoggi’s alleged killing from his Apple Watch, but details in the report come into question.
October 14: Trump says that ‘we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment’ if Saudi Arabia is involved. The kingdom responds with a blistering attack against those who threaten it, as the manager of a Saudi-owned satellite news channel suggests the country could retaliate through its oil exports. The Saudi stock exchange plunges as much as 7 percent at one point.
Khashoggi (pictured), went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
October 15: A Turkish forensics team enters and searches the Saudi Consulate, an extraordinary development as such diplomatic posts are considered sovereign soil. Trump suggests after a call with Saudi King Salman that ‘rogue killers’ could be responsible for Khashoggi’s alleged slaying. Trump says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Mideast over the case. Meanwhile, business leaders say they won’t attend an economic summit in the kingdom that’s the brainchild of Prince Mohammed.
October 16: A high-level Turkish official tells the AP that ‘certain evidence’ was found in the Saudi Consulate proving Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo arrives for meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Salman and Prince Mohammed. Meanwhile, Trump compares the case to the appointment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, saying: ‘Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent.’
October 17: Pompeo meets with Turkey’s president and foreign minister in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Turkish police search the official residence of Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul and conduct a second sweep of the consulate.
October 18: A leaked surveillance photograph shows a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage walked into the consulate just before Khashoggi vanished there.
October 20: Saudi Arabia for the first time acknowledges Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming he was slain in a ‘fistfight.’ The claim draws immediate skepticism from the kingdom’s Western allies, particularly in the U.S. Congress.
October 22: A report says a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office around the time Khashoggi was killed. Police search a vehicle belonging to the Saudi consulate parked at an underground garage in Istanbul.
CCTV emerges showing a Saudi intelligence officer dressed in a fake beard and Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and glasses on the day he went missing.
October 23: Erdogan says Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi after plotting his death for days, demanding that Saudi Arabia reveal the identities of all involved.
October 25: Changing their story again, Saudi prosecutors say Khashoggi’s killing was a premeditated crime.
November 2: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government. Earlier the same day, Yasin Aktay, a ruling party adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he believed the body had to have been dissolved in acid.
November 4: Khashoggi’s sons Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi issue appeal for his remains to be returned so that he may be buried in Saudi Arabia.
November 10: President Erdogan says Turkey gave the audio recordings linked to the murder to ‘Saudi Arabia, to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the British’.
November 13: Turkish media reports that the luggage carried by the Saudi ‘hit squad’ included scissors, defibrillators and syringes that may have been used against Khashoggi.
November 15: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announces that he is seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder. Shalaan al-Shalaan said the person who had ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team sent to repatriate him, and exonerated Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. On the same day, the U.S. Treasury announces sanctions against 17 Saudi officials, including the Consul General in Turkey, Mohammed Alotaibi.
November 16: A CIA assessment reported in the Washington Post finds that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.
November 18: Germany bans 18 Saudi nationals believed to be connected to the murder from entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone. Berlin also announces it has as halted previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia amid the fallout.