One day after telling reporters he found Saudi Arabia's "fist fight" explanation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul credible, President Trump expressed greater skepticism of the account.
"Nobody has told me [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is] responsible" for ordering Khashoggi's death, Trump told The Washington Post in a phone interview Saturday night. "Nobody has told me he's not responsible. We haven't reached that point ... I would love if he wasn't responsible."
The president dubbed the Saudi prince an "incredible ally," but conceded "obviously there's been deception, and there's been lies" about how Khashoggi died. The journalist went missing two weeks ago, and Riyadh previously denied all knowledge of his whereabouts. Saudi Arabia is known for its poor record on human rights, and the alliance has embroiled the United States in the gruesome Saudi intervention in Yemen.
Trump also reiterated his unwillingness to allow the killing to interfere with a lucrative arms deal with Saudi Arabia. "It's the largest order in history," he said. "To give that up would hurt us far more than it hurts them. Then all they'll do is go to Russia or go to China. All that's doing is hurting us."