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Trump says he will not punish Saudi Arabia for journalist Jamal Khashoggi murder

Images of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi are seen on a big screen during a commemorative ceremony on Nov. 11, 2018, in Istanbul. A newly released tape reportedly reveals Khashoggi's last moments inside the Saudi consulate. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump released a statement Tuesday saying that the U.S. will stand behind Saudi Arabia despite the Saudi royal family's likely involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Meanwhile, a newly released 11-minute-long recording reportedly reveals the last moments of Khashoggi's life.

What did the statement say?

On Tuesday, Trump released a statement saying that, while “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event,” the United States “intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.”

Citing anonymous sources, CNN reported that the CIA has come to the conclusion that it is likely that the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's murder.

“The world is a very dangerous place!” Trump said at the beginning of his statement. He pointed to Iranian hostility to the U.S. and its support of Hezbollah and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as a reason to continuing supporting Saudi Arabia, Iran's rival in the region. He also mentioned the $450 billion the Saudis had agreed to pay for military equipment, money that “will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States.”

Trump also addressed the Khashoggi killing:

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!

He said that members of Congress who disagree with him on this were doing so “for political or other reasons.” He added that he would “consider whatever ideas are presented to me [regarding Saudi Arabia], but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.”

“Very simply,” he concluded, “it is called America First!”

What about the recording?

This audio recording was released by the Turkish news agency Haberturk. Turkish media outlets have been at the forefront of releasing information regarding Khashoggi's capture and murder.

On Oct. 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to finalize his divorce. He never left the consulate alive.

The Saudi government initially insisted that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive and claimed to be concerned as to his whereabouts, before finally admitting that he had died in the consulate. The Saudi government has still refused to take responsibility for the incident, insisting that no order had been given by the royal family to execute Khashoggi.

The Turkish government has claimed to have a recording of Khashoggi's last moments, which it shared with world leaders, including CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Trump told Fox News's Chris Wallace on Sunday that he had the opportunity to hear the recording himself, but refused because there was “no reason” for him to hear the “suffering tape.”

“Let my hand go. Who do you think you are? Why are you doing this?” someone assumed to be Khashoggi said on the tape. As a columnist for the Washington Post, Khashoggi had frequently criticized the Saudi government and the Saudi crown prince.

Another man on the tape, identified by the Turkish outlet as Maher Mutreb, said, “You traitor! Your day of judgment has come!” Mutreb, a close ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had previously been implicated by the Turkish government in Khashoggi's murder.

Later in the tape, another voice which reportedly belonged to Mustafa al-Madani could be heard saying, “It's really creepy that I am wearing the clothes of someone who was killed minutes ago” and commenting that Khashoggi's shoes were too tight for him.

In CCTV footage given to CNN in October by the Turkish government, al-Madani, who bears a passing resemblance to Khashoggi, can be seen entering the Saudi consulate shortly before Khashoggi. After Khashoggi's disappearance, al-Madani is seen exiting the building wearing Khashoggi's clothes and a fake beard. He then walks around the city to a popular mosque, presumably so it would seem like Khashoggi had left the consulate alive.

Eventually, al-Madani enters a bathroom and changes back into his own clothes, discarding Khashoggi's clothing. In the footage, al-Madani is notably still wearing his own shoes when he exits the embassy, and not Khashoggi's.

One last thing…
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