President Trump on Saturday lauded Saudi Arabia as a “spectacular ally” and downplayed reports that the CIA believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi—a crime for which 17 Saudi officials were hit with U.S. sanctions earlier this week. The president made the comments while speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House early Saturday, saying he had not yet been briefed on the CIA’s assessment of Khashoggi’s death, but expected to speak to intelligence officials later Saturday. The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA has provided a report detailing evidence of the crown prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and said it has “high confidence” he ordered the murder. Asked about those claims, Trump said, “As of this moment we were told that he did not play a role.” His comments come after sources cited by the Post said Trump has appeared reluctant to place any blame on the crown prince, even after being shown evidence that Mohammed orchestrated the killing. The president has also reportedly asked CIA and State Department officials where Khashoggi’s body is and become frustrated when they could not provide an answer.
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