Despite acknowledging that “obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” President Donald Trump said late Saturday that he wanted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to stay on the path to power in the aftermath of the suspected murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump described MBS as a ruler able to “keep things under check” — “in a positive way” — and said “I would love if he wasn’t responsible” for Khashoggi’s death.
MBS, Trump said, is “a strong person, he has very good control.”
Trump has said the new Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death is credible; the Saudis have now claimed that the journalist was accidentally killed during a fight in their consulate in Istanbul, an excuse that came more than two weeks after the Saudis falsely claimed Khashoggi was unharmed.
“Nobody has told me [MBS] is responsible,” Trump told the Post. “Nobody has told me he’s not responsible. We haven’t reached that point. I haven’t heard either way.”
He added that MBS’ father, Saudi King Salman, “does not know about it.”
Trump’s business ties to Saudi Arabia have raised concerns about a conflict of interest in his administration’s handling of the suspected murder, as has Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s personal connection to MBS. Kushner has reportedly texted back-and-forth with MBS on the private messaging service WhatsApp and their close relationship is well known.
“Jared doesn’t do business with Saudi Arabia,” Trump claimed to the Post. “They’re two young guys. Jared doesn’t know him well or anything,” he said. “They are just two young people. They are the same age. They like each other I believe. Jared has done a very good job. I think he’ll make peace with Israel. But there are a lot of setbacks. This is a setback for that.”
Trump on Saturday also contradicted the Post’s own reporting that, in the paper’s words Friday, “CIA officials have listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say proves the journalist was killed and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate.”
Trump told the Post: “I’ve heard all about the videos or the tapes. Nobody would get it faster than me. Nobody has been able to show it.”