On Saturday, before leaving to review the wildfire damage in California, Trump addressed a Washington Post report that, according to CIA officials, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of Khashoggi, who was an outspoken critic of the royal family. The Washington Post contributor and U.S. resident entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and was never seen alive again.
“We haven’t been briefed yet,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn. “The CIA is going to be speaking to me today. We have not been briefed yet. As of this moment, we were told that he did not play a role.”
The president said he has to take many things into account when it comes to America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, in particular emphasizing economic relations.
“They give us a lot of jobs and a lot of business and economic development,” Trump said. “They have been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.”
The prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, reportedly called Khashoggi and told him he could safely travel to Istanbul to obtain needed documents. The ambassador denied any involvement in the journalist’s disappearance or murder on his official Twitter account Friday.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has charged 11 suspects in connection with the murder of Khashoggi and is seeking the death penalty for five of them. Khashoggi died from a lethal injection and was then dismembered, according to a Saudi deputy public prosecutor.