Trump does not want to hear tape of 'vicious' Khashoggi murder

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he does not want to listen to an audio recording of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite facing mounting pressure to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing.

Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and Turkey has given the U.S. government a recording of the murder, but Trump said he would not listen to it "because it’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape."

"I don’t want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape," Trump said in an interview with "Fox News Sunday."

"I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it ... It was very violent, very vicious and terrible."

Trump also said he wants to maintain a close alliance with Saudi Arabia despite Khashoggi's death and questioned the alleged role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is known as MbS and is the kingdom's de facto ruler.

"He told me that he had nothing to do with it," Trump said, adding that "many people" also said the crown prince had no knowledge of the killing.

The interview was taped on Friday, hours before government sources said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had briefed the Trump administration on the murder and its belief that MbS ordered it.

Trump said on Saturday that the CIA assessment was "very premature" and in the interview that aired on Sunday he said it may never be possible to know who ordered Khashoggi's murder.

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Saudi prince meets with Khashoggi family members
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Saudi prince meets with Khashoggi family members
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receive Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receive Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, right, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second right, receive Sahel, a family member, and Salah, a son, of Jamal Khashoggi, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Saudi Arabia, which for weeks maintained that Jamal Khashoggi had left the Istanbul consulate, on Saturday acknowledged he was killed there in a "fistfight." (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, right, points to Salah, a son, of Jamal Khashoggi as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second right, looks on, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Saudi Arabia, which for weeks maintained that Jamal Khashoggi had left the Istanbul consulate, on Saturday acknowledged he was killed there in a "fistfight." (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
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Trump faces intense pressure from senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers to take tougher action against Saudi Arabia. Some have said Trump should suspend arms sales to the kingdom and drop his support for MbS, but Trump has so far resisted that pressure.

The administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but they did not target the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia is a major oil supplier and a close ally of the United States in countering Iranian power in the Middle East.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, said on Sunday he had no doubt about MbS' involvement in ordering the murder of Khashoggi.

"They are an important ally but when it comes to the crown prince, he's irrational, he's unhinged and I think he's done a lot of damage to the relationship (between) the United States and Saudi Arabia. And I have no intention of working with him ever again," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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