President Donald Trump on Saturday heralded Saudi Arabia as a “spectacular ally” two days after his administration leveled sanctions against 17 Saudi officials for the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The president said he had not yet been briefed by the CIA on the latest developments in the investigation into Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month, but he would speak to intelligence officials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later Saturday.
Trump demurred on any potential involvement by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the CIA has concluded ordered Khashoggi’s assassination by a team of Saudi agents, according to a report first published Friday by the Washington Post.
“As of this moment we were told that he did not play a role,” the president told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, before embarking to California to observe the devastation from a spate of wildfires that have torn across the state, killing more than five dozen and leaving hundreds missing. “We’re going to have to find out what they have to say.”
Trump also rejected a Thursday report by NBC News alleging that his administration is considering extraditing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in the hope of dissuading Turkish President Recep Erdogan from punishing the Saudis for Khashoggi’s murder.
“It’s not under consideration,” Trump said, adding that “we’re having a very good moment with Turkey,” and citing Erdogan’s release of American pastor Andrew Brunson in October.
“You know, we also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia,” the president said. “They give us a lot of jobs and a lot of business and economic development. They have been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and econ development.”