Monday, 30th October 2017

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Trump rebuffs CIA Jamal Khashoggi conclusions

Agency merely had feelings on murder of Saudi scribe, says President

By New York Times News Service in Palm Beach (Florida)
  • Published 24.11.18, 1:59 AM
  • Updated 29.11.18, 5:50 PM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he has Thanksgiving Day dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday. AP Photo

President Trump on Thursday rebuffed the CIA over its conclusion that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, saying the agency merely had “feelings” on the matter, and he threatened to close the entire southern border if a caravan that is so far waiting patiently on the Mexican side grows “uncontrollable”.

Trump made the remarks as he fielded questions from reporters at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, expanding on the grievances that have filled his Twitter feed over the past few days. The exchange was a notable deviation on a Thanksgiving that was otherwise almost an exact replica of how the President, a known creature of habit, spent the holiday last year.

There were the early-morning tweets, this year attacking perceived judicial adversaries.

There was the address to American troops stationed around the world, delivered from an opulent room at Mar-a-Lago, which he has deemed “the southern White House”. There was the visit to a Coast Guard station, where he raved about the Guard’s rising “brand”.

And there was his expression of thanks for his family and for his “having made a tremendous difference in this country”.

Trump’s dispute with his own intelligence agencies over the killing of Khashoggi, an opinion columnist for The Washington Post, trailed him into the holiday weekend.

The President doubled down on his insistence that an alliance with Saudi Arabia, sweetened by low oil prices and billions in investment, had more value than repercussions for any culpability in the murder of Khashoggi.

“Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs?” Trump said of the partnership with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s day-to-day ruler. “And frankly, if we went by this standard, we wouldn’t be able to have anybody as an ally,” he added.

The CIA has concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing, American officials have said. But Trump insisted that Prince Mohammed “hates it more than I do” that the assassination took place, and disputed that the CIA had made a conclusion that the prince was to blame, saying the agency’s leaders “have feelings, certain ways”.

Pressed on who should be held to account for the murder, the President said that “maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place”.

Trump also threatened to close the southern border if he decided that officials in Mexico had lost control of security there, again wielding the presence of the migrant caravan in Tijuana as fodder for his call for an immigration crackdown, including a possible government shutdown if Congress does not fund his border wall. The migrants are waiting there to make asylum claims.

“When they lose control of the border on the Mexico side,” he said, “we’ll just close the border.” He renewed his threat to veto any budget legislation in December that does not include funding for the wall, a move that would shut down parts of the government, including the department of homeland security.