Even as his own intelligence officials reportedly have determined otherwise, President Donald Trump is insisting that he has seen no evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, according to the Financial Times.
> The US president’s comments came amid media reports that the CIA had concluded responsibility for the killing lay with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler. “Who can really know?” Mr Trump said on Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox. Prince Mohammed had told him as many as five times — including as recently as a few days ago — that he had not been involved, the president said, and he suggested there was no recourse to finding out whether the crown prince was lying. “He told me that he had nothing to do with it,” Mr Trump said, adding that “many people” also said the crown prince had no knowledge of the killing. “Will anybody really know?”
Numerous outlets have reported on the CIA’s findings, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN, FT noted.
> The agency’s conclusion was based on Prince Mohammed’s leadership role in the country and the belief that no operation against Khashoggi, a veteran journalist, could have been authorised without the heir apparent’s consent. The assessment is the first to explicitly link the 33-year-old royal to the killing, which has triggered Riyadh’s biggest diplomatic crisis since the September 11 attacks of 2001 on the US.
The State Department, however, indicated over the weekend that it has not yet determined who was behind the journalist’s murder and said “recent reports indicating that the US government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate”.
> Mr Trump said afterwards that he expected to get “a very full report” by Tuesday. In the Fox interview on Sunday, the president reiterated that he wanted to maintain Saudi Arabia as an ally. “We do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.” Mr Trump acknowledged for the first time that his White House had the tape capturing the sounds of Khashoggi’s murder, but that he himself had chosen not to listen to it. “I don’t want to hear the tape,” Mr Trump said. “It’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape . . . It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.”