Trump signals Saudis won't face severe punishment for Khashoggi killing

BY JORDAN FABIAN - TheHill

President Trump said Tuesday the U.S. would maintain a "steadfast" alliance with Saudi Arabia in a defiant statement that made it clear Trump does not want the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to disrupt the relationship between the two nations.

Trump refused to blame Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi's killing even though the CIA has reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered his assassination. The CIA on Tuesday was expected to share its final report on the killing with Trump.

"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!" the president said, adding that "we may never know" who was responsible.

Trump indicated he believes the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia should override any concerns about Prince Mohammed's alleged involvement in the plot, a stance that will likely anger members of Congress and other U.S. allies who have pressured Trump to hold the crown prince responsible.

"The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!" the president said.

The president said he understands many lawmakers would like to see a tougher stance against Riyadh "for political or other reasons" but indicated he would only accept suggested punishments "if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America."

Trump's announcement came in a 683-word statement issued by the White House press office. 

Read more at TheHill

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