In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing
WASHINGTON — President Trump defied his intelligence agencies and ample circumstantial evidence to declare his unswerving loyalty to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, asserting that the crown prince’s culpability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi might never be known.
In a remarkable statement that appeared calculated to end the debate over the American response to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, Mr. Trump said, “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” the president continued. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Still, in its 631 words in eight paragraphs, punctuated by seven exclamation points and a casual style that sounded like Mr. Trump’s off-the-cuff musings, the statement was a cogent summary of the Trump worldview: remorselessly transactional, heedless of allies, determined to put America’s interests first and founded on a theory of moral equivalence.
His statement, which aides said Mr. Trump dictated himself and reflected his deeply held views, came only days after the C.I.A. concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, an ally of the White House, had authorized the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post.
特朗普的助手表示，这份声明由特朗普口述，反映了他根深蒂固的观点。就在几天前，中情局得出结论，认为白宫盟友、王储穆罕默德·本·萨勒曼(Mohammed bin Salman)批准杀害了沙特记者、《华盛顿邮报》专栏作家卡舒吉。
Mr. Trump’s words seemed certain to alienate Turkey, which has raised the pressure on Saudi Arabia to offer a full accounting of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. They also drew outrage from lawmakers and human rights activists, for whom the grisly killing has become a test of America’s willingness to overlook the crimes of a strategically valuable ally.
Far from criticizing Prince Mohammed or other Saudi leaders, the president came close to embracing the narrative of Mr. Khashoggi’s critics in the kingdom: that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an “enemy of the state” bent on undermining the House of Saud.
“My decision is in no way based on that,” Mr. Trump insisted. “This is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”
Punishing Saudi Arabia, he said, would put at risk $110 billion in military sales to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other military contractors, as well as $340 billion in other investments, which the Saudis had agreed to make since he became president.
Economists and military analysts said those numbers were so exaggerated as to be fanciful.
“The world is a very dangerous place!” Mr. Trump began, before seguing into a critique of Iran’s malign behavior in the Middle East, blaming it for killing Americans, sponsoring terrorist organizations, and conducting a “bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”
As if to illustrate the president’s point, the Treasury Department on Tuesday morning announced sanctions against nine targets in what officials said was an elaborate Iranian-Russian plot to sell oil to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and use the proceeds to finance Iranian-backed militant groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Mr. Trump left open the possibility that Prince Mohammed was aware of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing — essentially suggesting that the prince had lied to him in multiple phone conversations.
In private exchanges with aides, Mr. Trump has rolled his eyes when asked whether he believes the prince could not have been aware of the complex operation to kill Mr. Khashoggi, which involved multiple teams of operatives — some of whom had close ties to the prince — flying to Turkey on private jets and turning a diplomatic facility into a slaughterhouse.