Trump, Breaking With U.S. Intelligence, Appears to Accept Saudi Explanation of Journalist’s Death
WASHINGTON &mdash President Trump broke with his personal intelligence agencies on Friday, appearing to accept Saudi Arabia&rsquos explanation that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by accident in the course of a fistfight, although the United States&rsquo spy agencies are increasingly convinced that he was assassinated on high-level orders from the Saudi royal court.
Mr. Trump, who has cultivated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and created Saudi Arabia the linchpin of his Middle East method, has been deeply reluctant to point a finger at the prince, in spite of evidence linking him to Saudi operatives who entered the country&rsquos consulate in Istanbul the identical day that Mr. Khashoggi disappeared there.
Asked for the duration of a go to to an Air Force base in Arizona whether he viewed the Saudi explanation as credible, Mr. Trump mentioned, &ldquoI do.&rdquo
The president stated he nonetheless had questions for Prince Mohammed, and he referred to as the killing of Mr. Khashoggi &ldquounacceptable.&rdquo Mr. Trump also raised the possibility of sanctions against Saudi Arabia, but said that he hoped that Congress would not attempt to block billions of dollars in weapons sales to the kingdom, which he has held up as proof of the fruits of the alliance.
Mr. Trump&rsquos response sets up a clash with Congress, exactly where Republicans and Democrats each tarred the Saudi explanation as lacking credibility. A senior lawmaker briefed on American intelligence assessments of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos death, and the probably culprits, said it was not constant with the Saudi account.
The lawmaker, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the Home Intelligence Committee, said, &ldquoThe kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder should be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress need to.&rdquo
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump&rsquos, declared in a Twitter post, &ldquoTo say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement.&rdquo He added, &ldquoIt&rsquos tough to find this most current &lsquoexplanation&rsquo as credible.&rdquo
The increasing evidence that Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed on orders from the Saudi royal family members has place Mr. Trump in an increasingly untenable position.
On Friday evening, the president praised the statement issued by the Saudi government, which confirmed Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos death, as a &ldquogood 1st step&rdquo and a &ldquobig step.&rdquo Earlier, the prince and other senior Saudi officials had denied any function in Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos disappearance.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Prince Mohammed by telephone on Friday evening and then briefed Mr. Trump and his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, according to a White Residence spokesman.
&ldquoI believe we&rsquore acquiring close to solving a big dilemma,&rdquo Mr. Trump told reporters at the Luke Air Force Base, exactly where he was shown an Apache helicopter, an F-35 fighter jet and an array of bombs.
For the president, Saudi Arabia has turn out to be a important ally but also a troublesome partner. Saudi assistance is crucial to his efforts to isolate Iran. But he has watched as Prince Mohammed pursued a deadly war in Yemen, carried on a feud with his neighbor Qatar, jailed female dissidents and detained hundreds of wealthy Saudis.
Mr. Trump&rsquos son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, cultivated a partnership with the prince, who is close to him in age and who Mr. Kushner hoped would be an advocate for his peace proposal amongst Israel and the Palestinians.
In internal discussions, Mr. Kushner has urged the president and his aides not to abandon Prince Mohammed. But as Turkish officials leaked information of the grisly killing of Mr. Khashoggi and of the dismemberment of his physique, the White Residence has grow to be increasingly isolated in its defense of Saudi Arabia.
A stream of prominent Wall Street and tech executives canceled plans to attend an investor conference convened by the prince next week in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. On Thursday, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, pulled out of the conference, as well, although he will attend a separate meeting on counterterrorism approach.
In an interview on Thursday with The New York Instances, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the furor more than Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos death had mushroomed into a single of the greatest foreign policy crises of his presidency.
&ldquoThis 1 has caught the imagination of the planet, sadly,&rdquo Mr. Trump said. &ldquoIt&rsquos not a constructive. Not a optimistic.&rdquo
The president also mentioned on Thursday that it was nonetheless &ldquoa small bit early&rdquo in the method to draw definitive conclusions about who ordered the killing. But he expressed no doubt that the truth would come out soon.
&ldquoWe&rsquore operating with the intelligence from numerous countries,&rdquo he stated, adding, &ldquoThis is the greatest intelligence we could have.&rdquo
On Wednesday, The Occasions reported that American intelligence officials were increasingly convinced that Prince Mohammed is culpable in Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos death, and that they had been preparing an appraisal for the White Property.
Saudi Arabia tried to project the notion of a housecleaning, announcing that Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence and other higher-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed.
For Mr. Trump, who is on a three-day swing in the West ahead of the midterm elections, the Khashoggi affair has become a distraction for the duration of a period in which he had hoped to campaign for Republican congressional candidates on a message of financial growth and the current confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Just soon after answering queries about the Saudi announcement, Mr. Trump flew to a &ldquoMake America Wonderful Again&rdquo rally in Mesa, Ariz.
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Published at Sat, 20 Oct 2018 03:50:36 +0000