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Trump slammed for standing with Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s 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
Images


  • President Donald Trump was broadly criticized by members of
    both parties on Tuesday after issuing a forceful defense of Saudi
    Arabia over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal
    Khashoggi. 
  • A Washington Post report last week said the CIA concluded
    with “high confidence” that the crown prince directly ordered for
    Khashoggi’s killing.
  • Trump on Tuesday expressed doubts about Crown Prince
    Mohammed’s involvement, stating, “Maybe he did and maybe he
    didn’t!”
  • “POTUS sided with a brutal dictator over CIA? Shocking,” one
    current FBI agent told INSIDER.
  • Another agent said Trump is using the intelligence community
    as a “whipping toy for political purposes.”

President Donald Trump was broadly criticized on Tuesday after
issuing a forceful defense of Saudi Arabia over the killing of
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Trump signaled he does not plan to make significant changes to
the US-Saudi partnership, pointing to the purported economic and
strategic benefits of maintaining a strong relationship with
Riyadh. 

“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and
one that our country does not condone,” Trump said in the
statement. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally… The United States
intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.”


Read more:

‘Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t’: Trump defiantly stands with
Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed before release of CIA
report on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

The president also would not say whether he shares the widely
held belief that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman orchestrated
the Saudi journalist’s killing. “Maybe he did and maybe he
didn’t,” Trump said.


TrumpGetty/Somodevilla

‘This is a new low’

Khashoggi’s editor at The Post, Karen Attiah, said Trump’s
Tuesday statement represents “a new low.”

“Trump’s statement on Saudi Arabia + #Khashoggi is full of lies
and a blatant disregard for his own intelligence agencies,”
Attiah
tweeted
. “It also shows an unforgivable disregard for the
lives of Saudis who dare criticize the regime. This is a new
low.”

Last week, The Post reported that the CIA had concluded with

“high confidence”
that the crown prince directly ordered
Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October.

The CIA is expected to release a report on Khashoggi’s killing
later Tuesday. 


Read more:

Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi had a complicated past
involving interviews with Osama bin Laden and close ties to the
Saudi royal family

Fred Ryan, the CEO and publisher of The Post, released a
similarly bruising statement.

President Trump’s response to the brutal murder of
journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a betrayal of long-established
American values of respect for human rights and the expectation
of trust and honesty in our strategic relationships,” Ryan
said.


trump saudi arabiaGetty
Images

‘This administration faces a choice‘ between order
or chaos

Trump’s statement was not entirely unexpected. He was slow to
comment on the CIA’s reported findings over the weekend, and
when Fox News host Chris Wallace asked the president
whether he believed the Saudi crown prince had lied to him, Trump
responded, “I don’t know. You know, who can really know? But I
can say this, he’s got many people now that say he had no
knowledge.”

Following his forceful defense of Saudi Arabia and the crown
prince Tuesday, critics slammed Trump for what they said was an
undermining of the US’s commitment to human rights. 

“Since Mr. Trump excels in dishonesty, it is now up to members of
Congress to obtain & declassify the CIA findings on Jamal
Khashoggi’s death,” former CIA director John Brennan tweeted in
response to Trump’s statement. “No one in Saudi Arabia — most
especially the Crown Prince — should escape accountability for
such a heinous act.”


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

Daniel Balson, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy
director for Europe and Central Asia, echoed that view.

“On the Khashoggi matter, this administration faces a
choice,” Balson told INSIDER. “On one side of the dividing line
is a place where journalists and critics can be wantonly killed
and where the predations of the powerful are rewarded with
impunity.”

Balson added: “On the other side is order, international
law, a free press, and accountability. President Trump can wax
poetic about Saudi authorities, but he cannot make that choice
disappear.”

Democrats — and even some Republicans — in Congress also
slammed Trump over his response.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul tweeted,
“I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not
America First. I’m also pretty sure John Bolton wrote it.”

“It’s now 100% clear the Saudis own our President,” Sen.
Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
and has repeatedly called for
a reevaluation of US policy
toward the Saudis, tweeted.

Trump in his Tuesday statement said Congress was “free” to
go in a different direction than him on this issue, adding, “I
will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if
they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of
America.”


trump saudiTwitter/Saudi Embassy

Trump is using the intel community as a ‘whipping
toy’

While Trump’s statement drew shock from some, intelligence
veterans saw it as par for the course.

“POTUS sided with a brutal dictator over CIA? Shocking,” one
current FBI agent, who requested anonymity to speak candidly,
told INSIDER in a text message. 

Another agent said Trump is using the intelligence community as a
“whipping toy for political purposes.” The agent told INSIDER
politicizing the intelligence community is not a new tactic, but
added that Trump’s propensity for doing so is “unprecedented.”

“Not surprising when politicians trash the [intelligence
community] or any one agency if they get an outcome undesirable
to their agenda. It has been going on for decades,” this person
said, pointing to lawmakers’ response to the Vietnam War and the
use of CIA blacksites.

“This case is unique because you have a US president who has
routinely debased US intelligence not because he gets outcomes
undesirable for a certain political agenda, but because they hurt
his own personal or financial interests,” they added. “That’s
unprecedented.”


donald trump saudi arabiaReuters/Jonathan
Ernst

Glenn Carle, a former CIA covert operative, offered a similarly
blunt assessment of Trump’s response to the Khashoggi
investigation.

“The main pillar of this administration when it comes to the
Middle East is that the president wants to make nice with [Crown
Prince Mohammed] and Saudi Arabia because he likes dictators and
because the Saudis have bought the man,” Carle told INSIDER.

‘Trump is Trumpian’

Jim Carafano, a national security expert at the
conservative Heritage Foundation,

told INSIDER there
was nothing “terribly remarkable” about Trump’s
words. 

“[Trump] didn’t say people shouldn’t be held accountable.
He didn’t say human rights don’t matter. He even left open the
possibility [Prince Mohammed] was involved,” Carafano
said. 

At the end of the day, Carafano said the US-Saudi
partnership was never really going to change, and he suspects
former President Barack Obama would’ve issued a statement with
the same general substance as Trump’s. 

When asked about some of the misleading claims Trump made
in the statement, such as
previously debunked assertions about US arms sales to the
Saudis
, Carafano replied, “Trump is Trumpian.”

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