‘A vicious place’: Trump blames ‘the world’ for Khashoggi’s death
Trump was asked by a reporter on Thursday who he thinks should be held accountable for Khashoggi’s death.
“Maybe the world should be held accountable,” Trump replied. “Because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very vicious place.”
In his official statement on Khashoggi’s death, released Tuesday, the president opened with similar language. “The world is a very dangerous place!” Trump wrote, before explaining how some countries are more dangerous than others.
“It could very well be that the (Saudi) Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event,” Trump wrote. However, Trump insisted that the US would remain a “steadfast partner” of the desert Kingdom, citing Riyadh’s vital role as an oil exporter and ally against Iran.
The US has sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals for their alleged role in the killing, including Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, who Turkish authorities believe led a 15-man ‘kill team’ to Istanbul to murder Khashoggi. The Saudi government has not been sanctioned, despite the fact that the CIA concluded “with high confidence” that the Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi to be taken out.
Asked about the CIA report on Thursday, Trump said that the CIA's conclusion meant the agency "had feelings," not factual proof that the Prince was involved.
The Saudi public prosecutor said last week that he would seek the death penalty for five people allegedly involved, but maintained that the Crown Prince was in no way implicated or responsible. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that Saudi officials “at the highest level” ordered the killing.
US lawmakers aren’t buying Trump’s insistence on standing by the Saudi prince. In a rare bipartisan effort, the senior Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have both asked President Donald Trump to launch a human rights probe into Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, with a view to sanctioning the Saudi ruler.
Trump has been criticized from both sides of the political aisle for his refusal to press the Saudis. ”While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Tuesday.
While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 20, 2018
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders labeled Trump’s statement “rambling and dishonest,” and accused Trump of defending the “despotic” Saudi regime.
Today President Trump, in a rambling and dishonest statement, tried to defend the despotic Saudi regime and cast doubt on the CIA’s conclusion that the crown prince was personally involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 20, 2018
Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was more concise in her criticism. “Being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First’” she tweeted on Wednesday.
As Trump blamed the world, France imposed travel bans on 18 Saudi citizens on Thursday. The move came three days after Germany announced that it had fully halted all arms sales to Riyadh, and imposed a similar travel ban on the same Saudi nationals. The 18 individuals will be banned from entering all 26 Schengen Area countries.
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