Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump has never wanted to make a big deal out of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA reportedly has concluded was ordered by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Behind the scenes: Trump has privately called the assassination "really bad," but immediately adds that other countries America deals with, including China, do "a lot of bad things," according to sources with direct knowledge. Trump has also privately told associates he thinks it's ridiculous that people are making so much of the Saudi murder of one man, given the brutal practices of countries like China.

President Xi Jinping has detained more than one million Uighurs in internment camps because of their religion. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have spoken out against these camps, but Trump has shied away from publicly condemning this and other Chinese human rights atrocities.

Trump has also wondered aloud to aides why America should take a side in the Khashoggi fight, as the journalist was not a U.S. citizen and the murder didn't happen here.

  • Khashoggi was an American resident and wrote for the Washington Post. His murder has sparked worldwide outrage and focused attention on the Trump administration's cozy relationship with the Saudis.

Senior Trump administration officials, including State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, say the U.S. government has reached no final conclusion on who should bear responsibility for Khashoggi’s killing.

What's next: "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked Trump whether MBS lied to him. "I don't know. You know, who can really know?" Trump replied. "But I can say this, he's got many people now that say he had no knowledge."

  • Trump's key quote to Wallace: "You saw we put on very heavy sanctions... on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But at the same time we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good."

Wallace then asked Trump whether he'd listened to the tape that recorded the murder.

The exchange is revealing, especially given Trump still stands by the Saudis:

  • TRUMP: "We have the tape, I don't want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape."
  • WALLACE: "Why don't you want to hear it, sir?"
  • TRUMP: "Because it's a suffering tape, it's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it. There's no reason for me to hear it. In fact I said to the people should I? They said, you really shouldn't, there's no reason. I know exactly — I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it."
  • WALLACE: "And what happened?"
  • TRUMP: "It was very violent, very vicious and terrible."

The bottom line: Unless there is a recording of MBS directly ordering the hit, every sign is that Trump will cast doubt over the CIA's reported findings — "who can really know?" — and get back to business with the Saudis.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.