President Trump sharply criticized Saudi Arabia's statement for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi late Saturday, saying that "obviously deceptions have taken place and that there are lies."
At the same time, Trump defended the oil-rich monarchy as an "incredible ally" and left open the possibility that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not order Saudi agents to kill Khashoggi.
"Nobody told me he was responsible No one told me he was not responsible We did not reach that point I did not hear in any way," Trump said in a telephone interview with the Washington Post. The claim of the kingdom that Khashoggi had been killed after a fistfight had escalated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul hit an international skepticism on Saturday as a team of Saudi agents could fly to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi and eventually kill him to kill the knowledge or approval of the Crown Prince.
Trump had told reporters on Friday that the Saudi statement was credible, but US officials said he had a private grimace that his son-in-law Jared Kushner's close relationship with the Crown Prince had become a burden and left the White House with no good options Has.
The Trump government has made its relationship with Muhammad a hub of its Middle East policy. It is designed to help bring about a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis and unite the Arab world against Iran. Now, the Saudi government's handling of the murder of a columnist who contributed to the Washington Post has tarnished Muhammad's image as the Trump administration questions the value of its high-level partnership with him.
U.S. Officials now have to explain the blatant discrepancies between the reports of the Turkish investigators and the Saudi government released on Saturday.
An important proof of this is the sound recording that led Turkish investigators a few days ago that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul. Trump on Saturday denied that any US officials heard audio, watched videos or read transcripts from the Turks.
But CIA officials have heard a sound recording that Turkish officials prove that the journalist was killed and dismembered by the Saudi team. after the people who are familiar with the matter. If this is verified, it would make it difficult for the United States to accept the Saudi version that Khashoggi's death was actually an accident. The officials agreed to talk about the condition of anonymity for this article to discuss a sensitive issue.
This tension has sparked controversy for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom Trump sent to Ankara and Riyadh last week. The officials of Pompeo and the State Department have done everything to deny that the chief diplomat has heard the tone provided by the Turks. "I have not heard a tape, I have not seen a transcript," Pompeo told reporters late last week.
By not reviewing these materials, the American diplomat is unable to refute or confirm the Saudi report, saying diplomats are familiar with the situation.
"When Pompeo was offered to listen to the audio recording, he was clever enough to say no," said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "You can not hear it, and once you hear it, you can not say things."
A diplomat who deals with the subject said that if Pompeo had heard the audio, it would be a total game changer and require a much more vigorous US reaction.
In its announcement on Saturday, the Saudi government said it fired five top officials and arrested 18 other Saudis as a result of the first investigation. The preliminary investigation conducted by the Procuratorate revealed that Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was strangled after a fistfight with a group of Saudi "suspects."
At least 12 members of the Saudi team are associated with Saudi security services, and some have ties to Muhammad following a review of passports, social media, local media reports and other material.
On Saturday, King Salman strengthened his support for the Crown Prince and gave him the official review of the Saudi intelligence apparatus.
The decision raised questions about the quality of the review and investigation of its actions by Saudi Arabia, which Pompeo praised as a key achievement of his trip.
"We talked about the importance of the investigation and it completes it in a timely manner and to ensure that it was sufficiently transparent that we evaluate the work that has been done to get to the bottom of it," said Pompeo Reporters on the asphalt in Riyadh before leaving the country. "That was the purpose of the visit, and in that sense it was incredibly successful."
The State Department declined to comment on Pompeo's satisfaction with Riad's actions on Saturday.
A US official expressed dismay that Kushner's close relationship with the Crown Prince was insufficient to provide resistance to the killing and made the administration vulnerable to criticism that the United States is committed to the Saudis.
The official said Trump is annoyed by a feeling that he was blind and what he sees as a Kushner miscalculation. Kushner has been marginalized in recent days from the Khashoggi case, which many consider beneficial in the government.
Another official said that given the proximity of the midterm elections, the President is particularly sensitive to the unpleasant optics of the situation, unclear whether he will do anything.
On Saturday, Trump repeated that he did not want to block US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and said, "That would hurt us a lot more than it would be … you."
He also said he Believing it was "possible" the Crown Prince did not know about the killing of Khashoggi, though two of his advisors said the President is privately skeptical that "Rogue Killer" executed the mission when Trump had previously emerged as a possibility.
When deciding how to deal with Saudi matter, Trump came across contradictory advice from his advisers. His false national security adviser, John Bolton, has emphasized his view that relations between the US and Saudi Arabia are important in containing Iran, according to the consultants. Kushner also emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with the Saudis.
Republican senator Lindsey O. Graham (SC), however, has told Trump that he will not respect the Saudis if he does not punish them
According to Republican Senator Bob Corker (Tenn.), The belief is that The Crown Prince can rescue Kushner's disused peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians, an important aspect of the government. "Much of the Middle East peace plan is based on their support and they feel very comfortable there," Corker said.
Trump allies acknowledged that the White House's ambiguity was likely to lead to growing Congressional demands for more credible reporting on events from Saudi Arabia, but they doubted this harmed the president politically.
"I do not think it hurts politically as much as some media say," said Marc Short, Trump's former director of legislative affairs. But he noted that "if the government is reluctant to express and condemn quickly, you will create a vacuum in which Congress will fill this vacuum."