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Trump Defended Saudi Arabia In The Killing Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

"It's a shame, but it is what it is," the president told reporters.

Posted on November 20, 2018, at 4:39 p.m. ET

President Trump meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office.
Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office.

President Trump on Tuesday issued an unapologetic defense of Saudi Arabia in response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, citing the need to maintain billions of dollars in arms deals with the nation.

"If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business," the president said in a statement. "King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had no knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

Jamal Khashoggi.
Hasan Jamali / AP

Jamal Khashoggi.

"The world is a very dangerous place!" Trump added.

The president's defense of Saudi Arabia's royal family came just days after reports that the CIA had concluded with a high degree of confidence that the crown prince ordered the killing of the Washington Post journalist at a Saudi embassy in Turkey, marking yet another instance of the president publicly contradicting the assessment of his intelligence agencies.

The Washington Post on Tuesday rebuked the president's statement, calling it a "betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights."

"He is placing personal relationships and commercial interests above American interests in his desire to continue to do business as usual with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia," the Post said. "If there is reason to doubt the findings of the CIA, President Trump should immediately make that evidence public."

Statement from Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan in response to President Trump's statement today regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. https://t.co/JJzw9yaU6Z

Khashoggi is believed to have been killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October while trying to obtain documents to marry.

In his statement, Trump said the US had "taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder."

"We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body," he said.

Yet Trump has repeatedly expressed an unwillingness to link the journalist's murder to Saudi Arabia's government or its royal family.

"We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi," Trump said.

In the statement, Trump also repeated Saudi Arabia's claim that the journalist had been an "enemy of the state" and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, while simultaneously claiming that the assertion had no bearing on the president's decision to side with the Middle Eastern country.

The president also defended Saudi Arabia in comments to reporters outside the White House, saying oil prices would soar if the US broke with the country.

"It's a very simple equation for me," he said. "It's a shame, but it is what it is."

President Trump asked about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: "It's a shame but it is what it is."

The Washington Post's global opinions editor, and Khashoggi's editor, Karen Attiah, called the White House statement "juvenile, clumsy," and "full of falsehoods."

"Trump repeated the Saudi lie that Jamal was an 'enemy of a state' and that the 'United States would stand steadfastly by Saudi Arabia,' even though its regime lured, killed and dismembered a peaceful Post op-ed writer who lived in Virginia," Attiah wrote. "In effect, Trump is doing his best to help the Saudi regime get away with the murder of a US resident and one of the Arab world's most prominent writers."

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