President Trump says he would have met with the Saudi crown prince in Argentina this week at the G20, only his schedule won’t allow for it.
Trump has acted as Mohammed bin Salman’s defender in the press, saying maybe he did know about Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and maybe he didn’t.
As he left the White House on Thursday for summit, the president shrugged off a meeting with MBS to discuss the journalist’s murder last month at a Saudi consulate, telling DailyMail.com, ‘It wasn’t set up.
‘It only wasn’t set up, I mean, I would have met with him, but we didn’t set that one up,’ Trump contended. ‘I’m making about three or four meetings, we just didn’t have time.’
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman deplanes at the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Wednesday for the G20 Summit in this handout photo provided by the summit
President Trump says he would have met with the Saudi crown prince in Argentina this week at the G20 summit, but his schedule didn’t allow for it. He’s seen here leaving the White House
Shortly after Trump’s remarks, French press announced that bin Salman would be meeting at the G20 with Emmanuel Macron, who had earlier derided the U.S. president for making decisions that are ‘detrimental’ to Europe.
Trump apparently has time to meet with Japan’s Shinzo Abe, India’s Narendra Modi, Germany’s Angela Merkel and China’s Xi Jinping.
‘I’m meeting with President Xi, which is a very important meeting have to do with trade, and as you know,’ the president on Thursday noted.
Yet, he won’t be hearing from bin Salman directly, he confirmed on Thursday on the White House’s South Lawn, about charges that the crown prince not only knew about but personally ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
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
The president’s schedule became a lot freer after his conversation with reporters. He cancelled a planned summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin an hour after taking off from Washington for Argentina.
Russia took three Ukranian ships and their crews hostage this week an an act of ‘aggression’ the United States says it will not tolerate.
Planned meetings with Turkey’s Recep Erdogan and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in were downgraded to ‘pull-asides’ the White House announced during the president’s flight.
How Trump would fill the gap in his schedule at the G20 was not immediately clear. He does not currently have meetings set up with Britain’s Theresa May or France’s Emmanuel Macron, either.
Erdogan gave the U.S. a recording of Khashoggi’s death that is not public but has not had its authenticity disputed earlier this month as he left for an Armistice Day celebration in Paris. The audio reportedly makes it clear that Khashoggi was murdered but doesn’t contain a smoking gun that would directly implicate bin Salman.
Trump and Erdogan discussed the murder during a dinner in Paris, the White House told DailyMail.com.
Still, Trump said earlier this week that he still has not received convincing intelligence that the crown prince was pulling the strings.
‘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 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.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he told senators on Wednesday, ‘There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi.’
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after the briefing that none of the lawmakers believe that bin Salman, known by his initials, MBS is innocent, however.
‘I don’t think there’s anybody in the room that doesn’t believe he was responsible for it,’ Corker stated.
CIA Director Gina Haspel was not at the briefing that the White House claims it didn’t bar her from attending.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key ally of Trump’s, said that until he gets a briefing from the CIA, he wouldn’t vote on any legislation, which would include a spending bill next week to keep the government open.
‘I am not going to be denied the ability to be briefed by the CIA, that we have oversight of, about whether or not their assessment supports my belief that this could not have happened without MBS knowing,’ Graham said.
Saudi King Salman presents President Donald Trump with the highest civilian honor, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, at the Royal Court Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during a visit in May of 2017
The president had previously been called out for his claims about the MBS 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?’ John Bolton testily told a reporter. ‘Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it?’
The president left 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.
‘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.
Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Saudi officials initially denied his death was murder but later conceded he’d been killed.
They called it a ‘rogue operation’ without the knowledge of bin Salman and imprisoned everyone known to have been involved.
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,’ 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.
‘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.’