WaPo Publisher Slams Trump's 'Dangerous' MBS Response: Khashoggi 'Deserves Better'

Jamal Khashoggi was a writer for The Washington Post before he was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan denounced President Donald Trump’s statement Tuesday that the United States will stand by Saudi Arabia despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ryan accused Trump of putting “personal relationships and commercial interests above American interests” by not holding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the death of Khashoggi, a Post columnist. Mounting evidence has indicated MBS ordered the killing.

“President Trump’s response to the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights and the expectation of trust and honesty in our strategic relationships,” Ryan said Tuesday in a statement.

“President Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place,” he went on. “His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so. An innocent man, brutally slain, deserves better, as does the cause of truth and justice and human rights.”

Trump announced Tuesday that the U.S. will continue to “partner” with Saudi Arabia even if MBS ordered the murder of Khashoggi, who was a sharp critic of the crown prince’s policies.

“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 in the statement, which contained eight exclamation points.

“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” he added. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The CIA has reportedly determined MBS ordered the assassination. Khashoggi is believed to have been killed soon after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His body was then dismembered and disposed of. 

In his statement Tuesday, Ryan called on Congress to take action against Saudi Arabia despite Trump’s reluctance to take any further punitive steps against the kingdom.

“In this failure of leadership from President Trump, it now falls to Congress to stand up for America’s true values and lasting interests,” he wrote.

The Senate is expected to take up a bill next week from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would end a major element of current U.S.-Saudi cooperation: a military campaign in Yemen that’s created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

“Today President Trump, in a rambling and dishonest statement, tried to defend the despotic Saudi regime and cast doubt on the CIA’s conclusion that the crown prince was personally involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Sanders tweeted Tuesday.

“Trump is clearly very afraid of the prospect of the Senate delivering a serious rebuke to his policy by voting to end U.S. support for the Yemen war,” Sanders wrote. “But that is exactly what we will do when we vote... next week.”

Akbar Shahid Ahmed contributed reporting.