Though he brushed off reporters’ Khashoggi-related questions earlier in the day during G20 meetings in Osaka, Japan, President Trump finally addressed his raising the issue of the journalist’s murder with crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during a private breakfast.
When peppered with questions about the Oct. 2 murder during a later press briefing, Trump said he broach the subject with MbS directly.
“I did mention it to him very strongly,” Trump said.
“That was a bad event.”
He added, “I asked him what was happening.”
Given that Trump appeared to be defending MbS, he was asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta whether he feared “offending” Prince Mohammed. The president responded:
“No not at all,” he said, and added “I don’t really care about offending people.”
Trump then added a parting shot personally directed at Acosta: “I sort of thought you would know that” — which drew immediate laughter from the crowd.
Acosta – are you afraid of offending him on that subject?
Pres. Trump: Not at all. I don’t really care about offending people. I sort of thought you would know that
— Jim Hanson (@Uncle_Jimbo) June 29, 2019
“I’m extremely angry and unhappy about a thing like that taking place,” Trump said, but he also claimed that “nobody has directly pointed a finger” at bin Salman, CNN reported.
However, a recent United Nations report, as well as the CIA itself did name the crown prince as likely authorizing the killing. Trump responded to a question of the CIA’s findings by saying he “cannot comment on intelligence”.
“We can declassify,” Trump said. “The truth is, I don’t want to talk about intelligence.”
The president also explained that the Saudis had found 13 people guilty as a result of their own investigation, in one of the clearest defenses from Trump yet of Riyadh’s official story which according to most observers has sought to carefully shield MbS from being found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Awkwardly, all of this comes just a week after the United Nations issued an over 100-page report finding “sufficient credible evidence” that the grisly murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was on the direct orders of the crown prince and other Saudi high level officials.