Just days after the CIA leaked to the Washington Post its determination that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was directly involved with the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump said in an interview that aired on Sunday that the prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with it and that he would not listen to the recording of the assassination given over by the Turkish government.
“Because it’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it,” Trump said in the interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it.”
Trump says he "doesn't want to hear the tape" of Khasoggi's murder b/c "it's a suffering tape. It's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it"
He adds he's not sure if Mohammed bin Salman lied to him because "he told me he had nothing to do w/it…will anybody really know?" pic.twitter.com/xjo239IIdh
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 18, 2018
It’s strange, however, because while the interview with Fox was filmed on Friday, Trump told reporters outside the White House on Saturday morning, just before leaving for a trip to visit fire damage in California, “we haven’t been briefed yet” about the Khashoggi murder.
Trump said "we haven't been briefed yet" on the CIA's Khashoggi findings.
WaPo says that's not true. Trump had already been shown evidence of MBS's alleged involvement and privately remains skeptical, aides say. He has tried to avoid pinning blame on MBS. https://t.co/g6Kri34a2p
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 17, 2018
So, “Is Trump defending the Saudi crown prince after a CIA assessment on the Khashoggi killing?” Seems like a very good and reasonable question:
Is Trump defending the Saudi crown prince after a CIA assessment on the Khashoggi killing? pic.twitter.com/vHj9tV5K94
— TRT World (@trtworld) November 18, 2018
Writing on Saturday, Middle East historian Juan Cole speculated about who, exactly, the CIA might be targeting with its story at the Washington Post — one that appears to reveal that the agency’s assessment, now expected on Tuesday, will conflict with what the president has been stating publicly. According to Cole:
Trump had asked for the report, but it is unlikely that he wanted it made public. The CIA is deliberately leaking it. Since the agency is aware that Mohammed Bin Salman is teflon inside Saudi Arabia, it seems probable that the target of the leak is in the US. The member of the administration closest to MBS is Jared Kushner, though Trump himself has admitted that he wants the sale of US arms to MBS more than he wants Khashoggi’s killer brought to justice. The CIA may be attempting to discredit Kushner and to detach Trump from his alliance with the crown prince.
The Saudi government has attempted to whitewash the murder. First it denied the killing. Then it blamed low-level rogue intelligence agents. Then it sentenced the latter to death so as to make sure they do not talk. The Saudis deny that Mohammed Bin Salman ordered that Khashoggi be whacked, which is laughable, since no one would dare do such a thing without his orders. It is an absolute monarchy, after all.
Meanwhile, human rights activists Medea Benjamin, said on Twitter, “Even #CIA says #MBS behind murder of #JamalKhashoggi but Trump covers his ears.” Then added: “Trump sees no evil, hears no evil when it comes to evil Saudi crown prince #MBS, who ordered murder of [Khashoggi].”