Trump said there was no reason for him to listen to the audio of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing because “it’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape.”
By Josh Babb
New reports surfaced this past weekend that CIA officials had concluded that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) most likely ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor for the Washington Post. Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Trump, in an interview with Fox News, said on Friday that he had been briefed by CIA Director Gina Haspel regarding the agency’s investigation of the journalist’s murder, saying that the CIA will issue a briefing on it this Tuesday. Trump added the CIA assessment would be a “very full report” on “who caused it, and who did it.”
Fox reporter Chris Wallace asked Trump as to whether he had heard the tape, who responded, “We have the tape. I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape.” He added, “I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it … It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.”
When Wallace pressed the president on whether MBS had any role in the operation, Trump demurred, “Well, will anybody really know?” He continued, “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.”
Last Thursday the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 17 individuals who the Saudis had originally arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s murder. At least one member of the 17 was a close aide to MBS, often seen traveling with the crown prince.
The Trump administration’s decision to stick by the embattled crown prince stems from the fact that Saudi Arabia is seen as a crucial ally in the administration’s policy goals in the Middle East, specifically in confronting Iran. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a foreign policy advisor, seems to have a particularly close relationship with MBS.
After weeks of denying any involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh officials issued a report last week saying Khashoggi died as a result of a botched operation by “rogue agents.”
Coinciding with the report, Saudi prosecutors indicted 11 participants in the plot, saying they would seek the death penalty for five individuals. The Saudi investigation concluded that MBS had no prior knowledge of the operation, a claim which Turkish investigators have contested.