President Trump on Thursday appeared to contradict the CIA’s assessment of the killing of The Washington Post writer, saying the crown prince denies it “vehemently” and the intelligence agency only has "feelings" and there is no smoking gun in the death.
The Washington Post reported that Trump was vague with who he blamed for the killing. He said, "Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very, very vicious place."
Trump has been widely criticized for his reaction to the writer’s killing. Despite his intelligence, Trump said he was not convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the murder.
“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 said in a lengthy statement.
Trump’s statement appeared to indicate he does not wish to take action against the Saudi government in response to the killing of Khashoggi.
“I hate the crime, I hate the coverup. I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it,” Trump said.
Many Republicans — even Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, who share their views on the matter with the president — have denounced Trump’s decision not to levy harsher penalties on bin Salman over the death and dismemberment of Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday he was “astounded” by Trump’s statement and likened it to a press release for Saudi Arabia.
“It is a delicate situation when we have a long-term ally that we’ve had for decades, but we have a crown prince that I believe ordered the killing of a journalist,” Corker told Chattanooga TV station WTVC in his home state of Tennessee. “We don’t have a smoking gun. Everything points to the fact that he knew about it and directed it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report