Tom Barrack, a billionaire financier who GOP operative Roger Stone once called President Trump's "best friend", defended Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Tuesday while speaking in Dubai on Tuesday.
When CNN's Becky Anderson asked Barrack about the effect the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has had on Saudi Arabia's global reputation, Barrack first cracked a joke before stressing that "whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse," per Gulf News.
Barrack said that western countries have always fundamentally misunderstood Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and, therefore, the United States should not attempt to "dictate" a moral code in the region. "The problem with the Khashoggi incident is the same problem with the West misunderstanding the East that has existed since Sykes-Picot," he said, referring to the 1916 agreement between France and the United Kingdom, in which the two powers arbitrarily defined spheres of influence in the Middle East. "The corrupt hand of the West has been the primary instigator in the kingdom," he continued.
In a report last June, The New York Times described Barrack, who has done extensive business in the gulf region, as one of the key players in forging Trump's warm relationship with the courts of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, despite the president's lengthy history of anti-Islam rhetoric. Barrack also served as chairman of Trump's inaugural committee, which is now under federal investigation. Tim O'Donnell
Update 4 p.m. EST: Barrack apologized for his comments, reports Bloomberg, saying Khashoggi's murder "was atrocious and is inexcusable ... I apologize for not making it clear at the time that I consider the killing reprehensible." He said that "the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom" and said the U.S. does constant "work to lead by example."