The New York Times reports:
President Trump broke with his own intelligence agencies on Friday, appearing to accept Saudi Arabia’s explanation that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by accident during a fistfight, while the United States’ spy agencies are increasingly convinced that he was assassinated on high-level orders from the Saudi royal court.
Mr. Trump, who has cultivated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and made Saudi Arabia the linchpin of his Middle East strategy, has been deeply reluctant to point a finger at the prince, despite evidence linking him to Saudi operatives who entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul the same day that Mr. Khashoggi disappeared there.
Asked during a visit to an Air Force base in Arizona whether he viewed the Saudi explanation as credible, Mr. Trump said, “I do.”
Trump said last night that Saudi Arabia’s announcement about the circumstances of Jamal Khashoggi‘s death is “a good first step.” Saudi Arabia is saying that Khashoggi was killed after an altercation of some kind in the consulate, and there has naturally been a lot of questions about that.
Trump told reporters last night, “I think it’s a good first step. It’s a big step. It’s a lot of people involved.” He repeated that phrase a few times, saying again, “It’s early, we haven’t finished our review or investigation, but I think it’s a very important first step.”
WATCH: President Trump responds to question about Saudi state news report confirming death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “It’s a good first step…it’s only a first step, but it’s a big first step” https://t.co/7olHsjWYK1 pic.twitter.com/B0ryO9zzsf
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) October 20, 2018