President Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed the U.S alliance with Saudi Arabia and defended the kingdom from charges that it orchestrated the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a remarkable statement laden with exclamation points, the president called Saudi Arabia a “steadfast partner” and insisted “we may never know” who was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
Khashoggi, a former advisor to Saudi intelligence who had become a blistering critic of the the Saudi royal family and was living in voluntary exile in the U.S., was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. He had entered the consulate to finalize divorce paperwork so he could marry his fianceé, who waited for hours outside but never saw him come out.
The Saudi government originally denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate but later admitted that he was murdered at the consulate in what they claimed was a “rogue operation” they had not authorized.
“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone,” Trump’s statement said. “Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder.”
The Trump administration has sanctioned 17 Saudis suspected to be involved with the murder but has not punished Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, believe to have orchestrated the attack.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” the White House said. “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!” Trump said.