President Donald Trump said Friday he was “extremely angry and very unhappy” about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but claimed that “nobody has directly pointed a finger” at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the conclusions of the CIA and a United Nations report.
“I’m extremely angry and unhappy about a thing like that taking place,” Trump said when asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta about Khashoggi.
Earlier Saturday, during a working breakfast with the prince, Trump brushed off a question about whether he would raise the subject of Khashoggi’s murder.
“Uh,” Trump said, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat frowning next to him, “thank you very much.”
And despite Trump’s claim that “nobody has directly pointed a finger” at bin Salman, his own CIA, according to a senior US official and a source familiar with the matter, concluded the Saudi ruler authorized the brutal murder, CNN reported in November 2018. A United Nations report released last week also implicated bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told CNN earlier this month that the UN report into the journalist’s killing was “flawed” and denied that Riyadh should accept responsibility for the murder, which he acknowledged was “gruesome.” Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor King Salman knew of the operation to target Khashoggi.
Trump did not answer Acosta’s question about whether he mentioned Khashoggi’s murder during his breakfast meeting with the prince, but stressed the important relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.
But when another reporter followed up, the US President clarified that he did mention Khashoggi’s murder in his meeting with the prince but said he would “not comment” on intelligence when pressed about the CIA’s assessment about the prince’s involvement.
“I did mention it to him very strongly,” Trump said when asked about raising the brutal murder. “That was a bad event.”
“I asked him what was happening,” Trump told reporters.
When asked about the CIA’s assessment by US intelligence sources that bin Salman authorized the murder of Khashoggi, according to a senior US official and a source familiar with the matter, Trump said he “cannot comment on intelligence.”
“We can declassify … the truth is I don’t want to talk about intelligence,” Trump said.
Trump more broadly defended his relationships with world leaders, including the Saudis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he gets “along with a lot of people.”
“I get along with everybody, except you people,” Trump told Acosta. “I also get along with people who would be perceived as being very nice.”
“I get along with President Putin. I get along with Mohammed,” Trump said.