Trump ‘not satisfied’ with Saudi Khashoggi explanation

Jennifer Epstein
Bloomberg News

President Donald Trump said he spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and is still not satisfied with the Saudi Arabian government’s explanation of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death.

Trump, speaking to reporters Monday on the White House lawn before leaving for a rally in Houston, Texas, said he had “tremendously talented people” in Turkey and Saudi Arabia who were due to return to the U.S. within the next day to brief him on their findings.

“I will know very soon” what happened to Khashoggi, Trump said. “I am not satisfied with what I’ve heard.” Trump didn’t elaborate on his conversation with Prince Mohammed, nor did he say which agency is investigating Khashoggi’s death or what they are examining.

The Saudi government admitted late Friday that the dissident writer had died after what they said was a fight within the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, where he sought to obtain a document related to his planned wedding. Turkish media and officials have said the Washington Post contributor, a critic of the royal family, was killed and dismembered by a 15-man team that flew in from the kingdom for the day.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said the White House is still gathering facts on Khashoggi’s murder and wants to preserve the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, downplaying the role of the kingdom’s government in the death.

“I see things that are deceptive every day,” he said Monday at a CNN event in New York after he was asked if the Saudi government had been deceptive about Khashoggi’s death in its Istanbul consulate. “I see them in the Middle East, I see them in Washington.”

“We have our eyes wide open,” he added.

Kushner has developed a personal relationship with Prince Mohammed, who some Republican senators have said is responsible, directly or not, for Khashoggi’s death.

Kushner said he had advised Prince Mohammed to be “transparent” about the incident. Asked whether the administration is reassessing the crown prince as an ally, Kushner said that “once we have all the facts then we’ll make an assessment.”

“Right now as an administration we’re more in the fact-finding phase and we’re obviously getting as many facts as we can from the different places,” Kushner said. “We have to be able to work with our allies, and Saudi Arabia has I think been a very strong ally.”

He said the kingdom has helped the U.S. combat Iranian influence in the Mideast. Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in what amounts to a proxy war in Yemen, where they are supporting opposing sides in a bloody civil war. The kingdom has come under criticism for civilian deaths from its bombing campaign in the country.

Investment forum starts

Saudi Arabia is moving ahead with plans to hold a glitzy investment forum, despite some of its most important speakers pulling out in the global outcry over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Future Investment Initiative, which kicks off Tuesday, was intended to draw leading investors who could help underwrite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plans to revamp the economy. But after the wave of cancellations, it could instead highlight the kingdom’s growing isolation and the damage inflicted on the prince’s reputation – as well as potentially his political future.

The forum is the brainchild of the crown prince, whose lofty vision for the Saudi economy hinges on his ability to attract foreign investments and create enough jobs for the millions of young Saudis who will be entering the workforce in the coming years.