President Trump declared his unswerving loyalty to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday, saying that the prince’s culpability in the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi might never be known.
“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Mr. Trump said in a remarkable, eight-paragraph, exclamation-point laden statement that appeared calculated to end debate over the American response to Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Mr. Trump dictated the sentiment in the statement, according to a senior administration official. Mr. Trump has wanted to put a comment in a single place that White House aides could refer to when journalists asked about Mr. Khashoggi’s death, according to the official.
But the sentiment is one Mr. Trump has repeatedly uttered to aides: The United States has a long history of overlooking Saudi misdeeds out of foreign policy concerns, but he felt he was uniquely being picked on publicly. The death was brutal, but it was just one person. And the press will never be satisfied with anything he says about it.