WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Sunday that while Turkey has shared with United States an audio purported to be of the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he has no plans to listen to the recording.
“We have the tape. I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape,” the president told interviewer Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
When Wallace asked him his reason, Trump replied: “Because it’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it, there’s no reason for me to hear it.”
Khashoggi, who was a columnist for The Washington Post, died Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain documents enabling him to marry his Turkish fiancee.
Weeks later, the Saudi government acknowledged that he was killed inside the consulate and last Thursday, the kingdom’s attorney general that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.
In a press conference in Riyadh, Saud al-Mojeb insisted that Saudi Arabia’s defacto ruler, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Sultan, had not had any prior knowledge of the operation, whose original aim was to bring Khashoggi back to Riyadh.
Long a member of the Saudi establishment, Khashoggi became estranged from the government as a result of his criticism of the crown prince and had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017.
Al-Mojeb said the investigation had shown that Khashoggi died after being restrained and injected with a tranquilizer following a fight inside the consulate.
US media have reported that the CIA concluded Mohamed bin Salman – known as MbS – was ultimately behind Khashoggi’s death.
Trump, who described the media accounts as “very premature,” wondered aloud Sunday whether the truth of who ordered the operation may never be known.
“Well, will anybody really know? All right, will anybody really know? But he (MbS) did have certainly people that were reasonably close to him and close to him that were probably involved,” the president told Fox News.
He pointed to the measures the US government announced Thursday against 17 Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged role in the Khashoggi murder, including Saud al-Qahtani, a chief adviser to MbS.
“You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. 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.
The president reiterated that in personal conversations with the crown prince, MbS had repeatedly denied involvement in the killing.
“He told me that he had nothing to do with it. He told me that, I would say five times at different points, as recently as a few days ago,” Trump said.