Despite CIA Conclusion, Trump Says Saudi Crown Prince Maybe Didn’t Know About Murder Plot

Left, a picture of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; right, President Donald Trump.
Chris McGrath / Mark Wilson / Getty Images

President Donald Trump continues to act as an ambivalent actor between his own intelligence agencies and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, suggesting on Tuesday that he doesn’t know whether or not Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about an alleged plot to kill a dissident journalist.

The CIA concluded earlier this week that bin Salman, who is sometimes known as MBS, was not only aware of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi that took place earlier last month but that he had also ordered the killing himself, according to reporting from CNN. The agency’s conclusion was based in part on audio recordings discovered by the Turkish government, as Khashoggi, who frequently criticized the leadership style of the crown prince, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Despite the conclusions reached by his spy agency, Trump released a statement on Tuesday that seemed to suggest he could not draw any conclusions on the matter himself but intended to keep status quo relations with Saudi Arabia intact either way.

“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 wrote in his official statement.

On actions he’d like to see taken in response to the killing, Trump further suggested he would not do anything to harm the ties between the two nations.

“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 added, stating that they were too important a partner in the fight against Iran and other nations to consider taking actions against for the murder of the journalist.

Trump’s statement on Tuesday is consistent with his actions in the past. While many nations around the globe were fast to condemn Saudi Arabia and MBS following evidence of Khashoggi’s murder, Trump defended the nation and supported their side of the story, according to reporting from the Guardian, including when Saudi Arabia tried to claim Khashoggi had died in an altercation rather than a planned assassination.

The Trump administration has taken limited action in response to Khashoggi’s murder, putting sanctions on specific Saudi actors involved in the killing. A bipartisan group of senators, however, say much more is needed, including actions taken against the government itself to show how serious the U.S. is against the murder of a journalist who had, up until his death, resided in America, per previous reporting from the Inquisitr.

In his statement Tuesday, Trump added that he would consider further action proposed to him by lawmakers in Congress, but noted that many of the calls to do so were based, in his mind, on “political or other reasons.”