President Trump acknowledged that Turkey shared a tape of dissident Jamal Khashoggi being killed inside the Saudi consulate but said he declined to listen to the “vicious” recording because he’s been briefed on its content.
“It’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it, in fact I said to the people should I?,” he told “Fox News Sunday” in an interview that aired Sunday. “They said: “you really shouldn’t, there’s no reason.” I know exactly – I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it.”
Host Chris Wallace asked what happened on the tape.
“It was very violent, very vicious and terrible,” Trump replied.
The president also said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has assured him that he wasn’t involved in the journalist’s death despite news reports saying the CIA has concluded that the royal ordered the killing.
“Well, he told me that he had nothing to do with it, he told me that I would say maybe five times at different points,” Trump said.
But Wallace pressed him on whether he’s sticking by the prince because Saudi Arabia is an important US ally in the Middle East.
“Well, 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,” he said.
The president noted that the US has imposed sanctions on the Saudis involved in killing Khashoggi, who was murdered shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
“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,” Trump said.
CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed Trump about the prince’s connection to Khashoggi’s murder aboard Air Force One on Saturday as the president headed to California to meet with officials about the wildfires.
Despite reports saying the CIA has evidence of the prince’s involvement, the State Department said the “final conclusions are inaccurate.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s defense minister said Khashoggi’s killers may have taken his dismembered body out of Turkey in luggage after he was murdered.
“One probability is that they left the country three to four hours after committing the murder. They may have taken out Khashoggi’s dismembered corpse inside luggage without facing problems due to their diplomatic immunity,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said, according to Reuters.
Turkey has said that Khashoggi, whose writings for the Washington Post were critical of the crown prince, was killed and then dismembered by a “clean up” team of Saudi officials.
Two teams of 15 people arrived in Istanbul the day Khashoggi, 59, went to the consulate to retrieve paperwork needed to marry his fiancee on private planes from Riyadh. They left later that day.
Saudi has offered conflicting accounts of what happened to Khashoggi before finally admitting that he was killed in a brawl after the officials tried to return him to the kingdom.
They contend that the crown prince was unaware of the operation.
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