President Donald Trump released a statement on Tuesday that providing his reasoning over maintaining diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the oil-producing Muslim country that has cooperated with the U.S. in its strategies to rein in belligerent Iran. The statement comes as speculation continues to grow that Saudi Arabian authotrities ordered the slaying of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi: a resident of Virginia who has been missing and presumed dead ever since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had been a journalist for The Washington Post.
In Trump's statement, he wrote that "our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman] had knowledge of this tragic event -- maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" "That being said," Trump continued, "we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran."
Congressional Democrats and Republicans are calling for sanctions on Saudi Arabia while expressing reservations about that country's war in Yemen and the millions of dollars of military technology it purchases from the U.S. every year. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who will probably chair the House Judiciary Committee once the Democrats take over the chamber in January, has vowed that he will investigate the entire Trump family over what he says are improper profits linked to Saudi Arabia. Later on Tuesday, Trump is expected to receive a CIA assessment on Khashoggi's murder.
Before departing for Florida, the president briefed reporters about his reasoning about Saudi Arabia. He pointed out that by chastising Saudi Arabia that oil prices could rise and military sales could be jeapordized. He said, "It’s a very simple equation for me. I’m about make America great again and I’m about America first…We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran… Right now we have oil prices in great shape. I’m not going to destroy the world economy and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country for being foolish with Saudi Arabia. I think the statement was pretty obvious for what I said. It was about America First."
Here follows the White House official written statement:
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2018
Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia
The world is a very dangerous place!
The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq's fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" Iran is considered "the world's leading sponsor of terror."
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries - and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an "enemy of the state" and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that -- this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. 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!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. 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!
I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction - and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.
After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels -- so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!