Despite President Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary, the CIA determined that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “directly involved” in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Trump has denied a report in The Washington Post that the CIA concluded that Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, saying instead that intelligence officials just “have feelings about certain things.” The CIA’s assessment on the death of Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month, has not been released to the public.
Asked Friday on CNN if the president was lying, Reed responded, “Yes.”
He added, “The CIA concluded that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the assassination of Khashoggi. They did it, as has been reported to the press, with high confidence, which is the highest level of accuracy that they will vouch for. It’s based on facts. It’s based on analysis. The notion that they didn’t reach a conclusion is just unsubstantiated. The CIA has made that clear.”
Trump strongly indicated he would take no action to penalize the prince, other members of the royal family or the nation in an extraordinary statement on Tuesday, insisting that the CIA has reached no conclusion in the killing.
“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 president wrote.
He also said in the statement that Khashoggi, a harsh critic of the royal family who was living in the U.S. and writing for The Washington Post, had been called an “enemy of the state” by Saudi officials. As for whether the prince knew about his killing, Trump wrote, “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
Asked why he believes Trump is supporting the Saudis, Reed responded, “I think he feels that he has an arrangement with the Saudis in terms of the region, where they will act on behalf of their own interests but he hopes for the United States’ interests.” Trump has emphasized a “wildly exaggerated” financial benefit to stay on good terms with the Saudis, Reed added.
In addition, the president “probably has had business relationships” and “might even be thinking in the future of business relationships with the Saudis,” said Reed. “So he’s put himself in a compromised position.”
The president on Thursday repeated his support for Mohammed in a meeting with the press at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s country club in Florida. At one point, when a reporter asked about the CIA’s conclusion, Trump responded, “They didn’t conclude. They didn’t conclude. I’m sorry ... nobody’s concluded.”
He said of the killing Thursday, “I hate the crime ... I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied” any role in the killing.
Asked who should be held accountable for the killing, Trump answered, “Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very, very vicious place.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is in line to take over as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in January, has vowed to examine what the CIA found concerning Khashoggi’s killing. That way, the committee can determine if Trump is “making representations to the public that are at odds with what we know,” Schiff told The Washington Post. The panel will also investigate any private business links between Trump and the Saudis that might have influenced his decision, Schiff said.