WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the "United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region."
"We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. 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," Trump said in a statement.
Trump continued that "it is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!"
"After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money," Trump said.
"It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States," he continued, adding that "of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors."
Trump cautioned against canceling defense contracts with the Saudis, saying that "if we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries - and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!"
"Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information," Trump said of the Khashoggi killing, but added that "it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!"
“'Great allies' don’t plot the murder of journalists, Mr. President. 'Great allies' don’t lure their own citizens into a trap, then kill them," said Jeff Flake, the retiring Republican senator from Arizona.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat from New York, tweeted that "President Trump's refusal to accept the CIA's assessment that MBS not only knew about but ORDERED the assassination of #Khashoggi is a betrayal of the American intelligence community and yet another clear indicator of his disdain for freedom of the press."
Mike Levin, a Democratic Congressman-elect from California, said that "our relationship with Saudi Arabia is NOT bigger than the premeditated murder of a journalist. Trusting our intelligence agencies IS bigger than protecting our relationship with Saudi Arabia."
Republican Senator Bob Corker also condemned the move, tweeting "I never thought I'd see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia."