Nov. 20 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday Saudi Arabia will continue to be a “great ally” — despite purported ties between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the death of reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump issued the statement Tuesday afternoon, the same day he was expected to receive a CIA report on the journalist’s death last month.
“Saudi Arabia say[s] 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,” the president added.
“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!
“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”
The Washington Post reported Tuesday the CIA will say in its report it’s likely bin Salman knew of the plot to kill Khashoggi.
Trump said Saudi Arabia is a critical partner against terrorism that recently spent $150 billion on military equipment from the United States, in deals with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
“If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business,” Trump added, saying Saudi Arabia is a top oil producer that’s worked with the United States to keep prices low.
Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 2 as he sought documents for his wedding. Authorities said a waiting Saudi hit team strangled and dismembered him and disposed of his body in acid.
“We in the kingdom know that such allegations about the crown prince have no basis in truth and we categorically rejected them, whether through leaks or not,” Saudi Foreign Minister Abel al-Jubeir told the Al Awsat newspaper. “They are leaks that have no been officially announced, and I have noticed that they are based on an assessment, not conclusive evidence.”
Last week, Saudi prosecutors indicted 11 suspects in the case and said they would seek the death penalty for five. The United States sanctioned 17 individuals and Germany and France on Monday barred entry for 18 people associated with the case.
“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone,” Trump said.
“I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America,” he continued. “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!”