U.S. President Donald Trump contradicts the CIA on its conclusions regarding the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying agency ‘had feelings’ but did not firmly place blame on Saudi crown prince.
“I hate the crime…I hate the coverup. I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do,” Trump said to reporters at his Florida resort.
Trump also reiterated that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia relationship is critical for Israeli interests - a point he made in a written statement on Tuesday.
“If you look at Israel, Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia. So what does that mean? Is Israel going to leave? Do you want Israel to leave? We have a very strong ally in Saudi Arabia. We have an ally that says that it did not commit – at the top level, the Crown Prince, the King – this atrocity.”
“The fact is they’ve been a very strong ally. They create tremendous wealth and a tremendous amount of jobs in their purchases. They keep the oil prices down – if you want to see a global depression, raise the oil prices by $50 a barrel.”
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Trump said on Tuesday he will not destroy the global economy by being tough on Saudi Arabia over the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, although the CIA believes Khashoggi's murder was ordered by that country's crown prince.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Wednesday the kingdom is united around its leadership, dismissing as "ridiculous" reports that members of the Saudi royal family want to see a change in the line of succession.
Asked in an interview by CNBC about a Reuters report that members of the royal family are discussing the possibility of changing the line of succession, but not while King Salman is alive, Adel al-Jubeir said:
"These are outrageous comments that are being made and are totally unacceptable."
In a statement Reuters said: “We stand by our story.”
Reuters had quoted three sources close to the royal court as saying that amid international uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family are agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is unified on this issue, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to its leadership, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to the vision that our leaders have put forth for us in terms of Vision 2030 and in terms of moving along the path of reform," Jubeir said.
The killing of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the crown prince, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month has drawn global condemnation, including from many politicians and officials in the United States, a key Saudi ally.
The CIA believes the crown prince ordered the killing, according to U.S. sources familiar with the assessment. President Donald Trump vowed on Tuesday to remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia despite saying that Prince Mohammed may have known about the plan to murder Khashoggi.
"We have made it very clear that Saudi Arabia's government is not involved in this (Khashoggi's murder) and the crown prince is not involved in this, at all," Jubeir told CNBC.