WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump brags he shielded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an explosive new book.
Talking to journalist and writer Bob Woodward, Trump defended bin Salman over the assassination inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
“I saved his ass,” Trump told Woodward for his upcoming book “Rage,” according to an excerpt published on Thursday by Business Insider.
“I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop,” Trump said.
Khashoggi, who was a critic of bin Salman, was hacked to death and his body was dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
A UN report found that there was “sufficient credible evidence” to pin the murder on bin Salman and he should be investigated for it.
The Washington Post, for which he was a columnist, reported in November 2018 that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman had personally ordered his killing by a hit squad at the consulate.
The victim used to criticize bin Salman’s policies, including the deadly war the kingdom is leading against its impoverished southern neighbor Yemen.
Trump has said that he was “extremely angry and very unhappy” about Khashoggi’s murder, but claimed that “nobody has directly pointed a finger” at bin Salman.
Trump has played down the Khashoggi murder case, and instead, repeatedly cited the profits that the US economy reaps from maintaining good business relations with the Saudis, particularly the Crown Prince bin Slaman.
Trump has described the Saudi crown prince as a “friend”. “It’s an honor to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia.”
In one of his interviews with Woodward, Trump said that bin Slaman denied involvement in the murder.
“He will always say that he didn’t do it,” Trump was quoted.
“He says that to everybody, and frankly I’m happy that he says that. But he will say that to you, he will say that to Congress, and he will say that to everybody. He’s never said he did it,” the US president said.
The murder of Khashoggi triggered uproar but the Trump administration has stood by the Crown Prince, and even bypassed Congress for an $8 billion arms deal.
Trump defended his stance by pointing to Saudi Arabia’s purchases of US weapons.
“He says very strongly that he didn’t do it,” Trump told Woodward. “Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time.”