President Donald Trump reportedly bragged about getting Congress to lay off of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Or, in Trump’s words, “I saved his ass.”
“I was able to get Congress to leave him alone,” reporter Bob Woodward quotes Trump as saying in 2018, after Khashoggi was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that October. “I was able to get them to stop.”
Woodward, in a passage from his upcoming book quoted by Business Insider, reports that Trump told him in January that he knew “everything” about the “whole situation” of Khashoggi’s death.
The CIA reportedly assessed within months of the killing that bin Salman had ordered it. But Trump contradicted that assessment, calling it “very premature.” Since then, he’s repeatedly emphasized the price tag of American weaponry purchased by Saudi Arabia.
The same month of Khashoggi’s killing, Trump said the Saudi government had committed to a $110 billion arms deal with the United States — except, as TPM reported, no such deal existed.
Speaking to Woodward in January, Trump emphasized that bin Salman “will always say that he didn’t do it.”
“He says that to everybody, and frankly I’m happy that he says that.”
Trump dodged Woodward’s attempts to clarify his own beliefs about the killing, instead saying, “Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time.” It’s not clear what he was referring to.
“And you know, they’re in the Middle East,” Trump continued. “You know, they’re big. Because of their religious monuments, you know, they have the real power. They have the oil, but they also have the great monuments for religion. You know that, right? For that religion.”
“They wouldn’t last a week if we’re not there, and they know it,” Trump added, according to the passage of Woodward’s book quoted by Business Insider.
The Trump administration has repeatedly stuck its neck out for Saudi Arabia. The State Department, for example, used an emergency declaration in 2019 to circumvent congressional notification for an $8 billion arms sale package to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Later, Trump fired the inspector general investigating that arms transfer after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked that he do so.