Trump stands by Saudi prince in journalist's murder: 'We may never know all of the facts'

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued a lengthy statement titled “Standing with Saudi Arabia” on Tuesday, acknowledging that the Saudi crown prince may have played a role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, but still reaffirming the American alliance with the Gulf kingdom.

“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 knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump wrote.

“That being said, 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. 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.”

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Murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: Members of the press report from in front of the entrance of the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee Hatice (L) and her friend wait in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, on October 3, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: Security cameras are seen at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: A man passes through police barricades to enter the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Saudi officials gather outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 7, 2018. - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is following the developments on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who has gone missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, to complete routine paperwork. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: Official cars are seen parked in front of the entrance of the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Turkish journalist Turan Kislakci head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association talks to the media outside of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 7, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. According to a Turkish unnamed government official the prominent Saudi journalist was murdered inside the Saudi mission in Istanbul after he went missing. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: An entrance sign is seen at the front of the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: The Saudi Arabia national flag is seen above the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: Members of the media film and report outside the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
A general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014. The pan-Arab satellite news broadcaster owned by billionaire Saudi businessman Alwaleed bin Talal will go on air February 1, promising to 'break the mould' in a crowded field.AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Saudi diplomatic vehicle leaves the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 3, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee Hatice (L) and her friends wait in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, on October 3, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee waists beside an entrance to Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 4, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee of the consulate checks a diplomatic vehicle in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 4, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
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On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the CIA has concluded with “high confidence” that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

Khashoggi was a Saudi writer and activist, a legal U.S. resident and a contributor to the Washington Post. He disappeared early last month after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to file required paperwork for his marriage. The Turkish government quickly accused Saudi Arabia of being behind his death. Saudi Arabia initially denied any role in Khashoggi’s killing but backtracked in the face of evidence released by Turkish officials, including an audio recording of the killing.

The U.S. has a copy of the audio, but Trump said in an interview with Fox News that he hasn’t listened to it and doesn’t intend to because it’s a “suffering tape.”

In subsequent statements, Saudi Arabia said Khashoggi was killed during a botched interrogation, eventually admitting it was a premeditated killing carried out by a team sent to Turkey. Through all of these shifting narratives, the Saudis denied King Salman or his son, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a rising power in the country, were involved. A number of Saudi operatives have been charged with the murder and five are said to face the death penalty. The U.S. also sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the killing, which Trump referenced in his statement.

Khashoggi’s death came as many critics see mounting repression in Saudi Arabia and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where the Kingdom has been involved in a bloody proxy war with Iranian-backed forces.

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Mohammed bin Salman
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Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman waves as he meets with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 11, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) attends a meeting between Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 6, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Pavel Golovkin/Pool
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) welcomes Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman meet at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A picture taken on June 6, 2017 shows a poster of Saudi King Salman (C), Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef (R) and Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman placed on on the offices of the Saudi national airline carrier in Riyadh. Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting extremism, in the biggest diplomatic crisis to hit the region in years. / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
US Defence Secretary James Mattis meets Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) in Riyadh on April 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images)
US Defence Secretary James Mattis bids farewell to Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C-R) following their meeting in Riyadh on April 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST (Photo credit should read JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 30: Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Vice Premier of China Zhang Gaoli (not seen) lead 1st China - Saudi Arabia High-Level Cooperation Council meeting in Beijing, China on August 29, 2016. (Photo by Pool / Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - APRIL 5: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) meets with Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud (L) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 5, 2017. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Pavel Golovkin (Photo credit should read PAVEL GOLOVKIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Khashoggi killing thrust a harsh spotlight on the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and particularly the White House’s close ties to the crown prince. Amid pressure to re-examine the Saudi relationship, sources in the White House orbit stressed the country’s strategic importance to US interests including countering Iran and enacting a peace plan between Israel and Palestine.

In his statement, which was sprinkled with Trump’s rhetorical trademark, eight exclamation points, the president made the case that Saudi Arabia is too important to the U.S. to downgrade the relationship due to concerns about the journalist’s death.

“The world is a very dangerous place! The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria … and much more,” Trump began.

“On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism,” Trump said.

As he has in the past, Trump also suggested Saudi investment including deals to purchase military equipment from American companies was too valuable to jeopardize.

“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!” Trump said.

Overall, Trump stressed, “It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!” The statement carried Trump’s foreign policy slogan, “America First!”

“As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!” Trump concluded.

Trump’s statement was issued just as the White House called reporters to the Rose Garden to watch the president issue a pardon of two American turkeys for Thanksgiving.

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