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Trump believes Saudi prince, despite CIA finding on Khashoggi killing

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Donald Trump Saudi Arabia
President
Donald Trump is facing mounting pressure to react more forcefully
to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal
Khashoggi.

Mark Wilson/Getty
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  • President Donald Trump has so far stood by Crown Prince
    Mohammed bin Salman despite damning allegations he ordered the
    killing of Jamal Khashoggi in early October. 
  • Trump’s ongoing support for Prince Mohammed, the de facto
    ruler of Saudi Arabia, follows a long pattern.
  • The president has a tendency to accept denials from his
    allies and those close to him when they face accusations of
    serious wrongdoing.

President Donald Trump has so far stood by Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman despite damning allegations he ordered the killing of
Jamal Khashoggi in early October. 

Trump’s ongoing support for Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler
of Saudi Arabia, follows a long pattern: The president has a
tendency to accept denials from his allies and those close to him
when they face accusations of serious wrongdoing, regardless of
how credible the accusations are. Meanwhile, he routinely and
viciously lashes out at virtually anyone who criticizes him, at
times
embracing and promoting conspiracy theories to delegitimize
them.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who wrote for The Washington Post,
went missing after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on
October 2. After nearly three weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia
finally acknowledged Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, but
has maintained Prince Mohammed knew nothing about it. 


Read more:
Here’s everything we know about the troubling disappearance and
death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Riyadh’s attempts to distance Prince Mohammed from the killing
have been met with widespread skepticism, and the CIA has
reportedly concluded with
“high confidence”
he ordered a team to take Khashoggi
out. 

But Trump has largely responded to the disturbing details
surrounding Khashoggi’s killing by touting Saudi denials while
emphasizing the purported benefits of the US-Saudi relationship.

In an interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace that aired
Sunday, the president avoided placing any significant blame on
Prince Mohammed. 

“He told me that he had nothing to do with it,” Trump said of the
Saudi prince. 

Trump added, “Will anybody really know? All right, will anybody
really know? But he did have certainly people that were
reasonably close to him and close to him that were probably
involved. You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive
sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But at
the same time we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally
that in many ways has been very good.”

The interview aired just two days after a bombshell report from
The Washington Post that said the CIA had concluded
Prince Mohammed explicitly ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

Trump is seemingly accepting the denial of a dubious autocrat
over the findings of the US intelligence community.

The president’s posture is
similar to his stance toward Russian President Vladimir
Putin
, which includes controversial remarks Trump has made
undermining US intelligence assessments on the Kremlin’s
interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump came under fire in July after he appeared to
side with Putin’s denials about Russia’s interference
over
the US intelligence community’s conclusions on the subject. 


Read more:
A huge question looms over Trump after the CIA reportedly
concludes the Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s
killing

But this is also reminiscent of Trump’s acceptance of denials
from a number of people on the domestic front. 

After former staff secretary Rob Porter resigned from the White
House amid allegations of domestic violence, for example, Trump
came to his defense. “He says he’s innocent,”
Trump said
the week Porter resigned back in February.
He said very strongly yesterday that he’s
innocent.”

Similarly, when failed Republican Senate candidate Roy
Moore of Alabama faced accusations of sexually assaulting
multiple teenage girls, Trump continued to support him. “He
denies it, he denies it,”
Trump said of Moore
in November 2017. “He says it didn’t
happen, and you have to listen to him also. And he said, 40 years
ago, that this did not happen.”

When former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly faced allegations
of sexual harassment from multiple women, Trump in April 2017
said,
“I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
 He described
O’Reilly as a person he knows “well.” 

More recently, as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
faced allegations of sexual misconduct during his confirmation
hearing, Trump also came to his defense. 

In fact, Trump has used the same rhetoric he employed to
defend Kavanaugh as he’s responded to the Khashoggi killing and
allegations against Saudi Arabia’s leadership. Speaking on the
investigation in mid-October,
Trump said
, “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty
until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through
that with Justice Kavanaugh. And he was innocent all the
way.”

In short, Trump has made a habit of embracing denials when
they’re convenient for him – even at the expense of undermining
the US intelligence community – while habitually
rejecting facts that don’t support his agenda or make him look
bad.

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