By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he stood by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince despite a CIA assessment that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and pleas from U.S. senators for Trump to condemn the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
Trump refused to comment on whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder, but he provided perhaps his most explicit show of support for the prince since Khashoggi’s death more than two months ago.
“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office.
Asked by Reuters if standing by the kingdom meant standing by the prince, known as MbS, Trump responded: “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”
Some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent MbS from becoming king, sources close to the royal court have told Reuters, and believe that the United States and Trump could play a determining role. [nL8N1XT0RC]
“I just haven’t heard that,” Trump said. “Honestly, I can’t comment on it because I had not heard that at all. In fact, if anything, I’ve heard that he’s very strongly in power.”
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall)