President Donald Trump offered a full throated embrace of the Saudi kingdom in a befuddling official statement on Tuesday that highlighted the importance of a $450 billion deal between the U.S. and the Saudis (which doesn’t officially exist yet) and oscillated on whether the Saudi king and crown prince were aware of the brutal murder of a Washington Post writer before it was carried out.
With a tone that indicates the statement was likely penned by Trump himself — complete with eight exclamation marks — Trump harped on the dangers of the world, justifying the Saudi assault of Yemen by bashing the Iranian government and its support of terror groups. Trump then jumped to the arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which he has cited as justification for continued positive relations with the kingdom since before the U.S. knew Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi — who was a permanent resident of Virginia — was tortured, murdered and dismembered.
Trump then called the crimes against Khashoggi “terrible” as he laid out what actions the U.S. has taken to punish those who participated in the torture and murder — like sanctions against 17 Saudis — before appearing to side with Saudi officials who have tagged Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. While Khashoggi was widely known as a Saudi dissident, he did not identify as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, though he did sympathize with and was friends with people who aligned with the movement, as the Brookings Institute pointed out.
In his statement, Trump was quick to clarify that Khashoggi’s political leanings did not impact his decision to bear hug the Saudis after the “unacceptable and horrible crime,” but as details of the murder unraveled in the media in recent weeks, Trump regularly raised Khashoggi’s immigration status while commenting on the writer’s death. Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen, but was a permanent resident.
In public statements, Trump has suggested that it was crucial to know whether the Saudi king or crown prince were aware of plans to kidnap and murder the Washington Post writer, but he obliterated that notion in the statement.
“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!” he said.
While he attempted to paint a portrait of a united front against terrorism with the Saudis, Israel and other countries around the world, he both began and ended the statement with a nationalist message: “America first!”
Read the full statement from President Trump below:
“The world is a very dangerous place!
“The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, ‘Death to America!’ and ‘Death to Israel!’ Iran is considered ‘the world’s leading sponsor of terror.’
“On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.
“After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say 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. 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. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!
“I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. 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!”