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In unusual statement disputing the CIA and filled with exclamation points, Trump backs Saudi ruler after Khashoggi killing

Image: Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference, in Manama, Bahrain on Dec. 15, 2014. Copyright Hasan Jamali AP file
Copyright Hasan Jamali AP file
By Adam Edelman with NBC News Politics
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"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" the president said of whether Crown Prince Mohammed bid Salman knew of the journalist's slaying.


President Donald Trump, in exclamation point-filled formal presidential statement, said Tuesday that his administration would stand by Saudia Arabia's rulers and take no actions against them over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In the extraordinary statement, which featured six exclamation points, the president called the "crime" against Khashoggi "terrible" and "one that our country does not condone."

But he again stopped well short of pointing blame at Saudi Arabia — despite reports last week that the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's killing — and cast questions over who killed the journalist.

"Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Trump said in the statement, which featured a subheading that read "America First!"

"That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi," he continued. "In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

"The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!" Trump said in the statement.

Trump, in the statement, which was titled, "Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia,: also repeated denials from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi King Salman that they had "any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi."

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