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Mohammed Bin Salman. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) told a group of American evangelical leaders last Thursday that he is going to punish those responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but stressed that the crisis must not shift the focus away from the Iranian threat in the region and the world, Joel Rosenberg, who organized the delegation and attended the meeting, told me.

Inside the room: Rosenberg said MBS attacked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Iranians and even the Russians. "He said his enemies are using everything they can to exploit this situation and make it worse," Rosenberg said. "He said, 'Listen, I am arresting people, firing people. Iran? When they kill people are they arresting people? No. You get promoted. What about the Russians? What about the Turks?'"

Rosenberg — a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who heads an evangelical foundation, lives in Israel and once worked with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — organized the visit to Saudi Arabia. He told me that the Khashoggi murder was the first issue raised in the meeting, and "the crown prince was not defensive about it."

  • "He said, 'Listen, this is a heinous act,' Rosenberg told me. "He said, 'It’s a terrible mistake and we have already arrested 18 people. I fired 5, we are going to get to the bottom of this and people will have to pay. It’s a completely unacceptable mistake and it comes at a time that threatens all the reforms we are trying to get done. It’s a disaster.'"

The Saudi crown prince used the meeting with the delegation, which included some of President Trump's staunchest evangelical supporters, to convey a message to the White House and to Senate Republicans who are pushing for sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

  • "He had two messages on this," Rosenberg said. "'It was horrible and unacceptable' and 'I can't let this stop me from all the reforms we have to get done to make life better for the Saudi people and to protect ourselves from the enemies — Iran, the Muslim brotherhood, al-Qaeda, ISIS.'"

The Saudi crown prince spoke for half an hour about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about the warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Rosenberg said.

  • "We did bring up — maybe the most sensitive issue was ... the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On that he talked to us at length but asked us not to be public on that part of the conversation."

Background: The evangelical delegation's visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting with MBS were scheduled long before the Khashoggi crisis exploded. The members of the delegation consulted White House officials while deciding whether to go ahead with it. They ultimately decided to go, citing the unprecedented nature of the meeting, and MBS sat with the group for 2 hours in his palace in Riyadh.

Go deeper

Trump set to appear at Pennsylvania GOP hearing on voter fraud claims

President Trumpat the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is due to join his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday at a Republican-led state Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing to discuss alleged election irregularities.

Why it matters: This would be his first trip outside of the DMV since Election Day and comes shortly after GSA ascertained the results, formally signing off on a transition to President-elect Biden.

Scoop: Trump tells confidants he plans to pardon Michael Flynn

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

President Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
10 hours ago - World

Remote work shakes up geopolitics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The global adoption of remote work may leave the rising powers in the East behind.

The big picture: Despite India's and China's economic might, these countries have far fewer remote jobs than the U.S. or Europe. That's affecting the emerging economies' resilience amid the pandemic.

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