President Trump said in a statement Tuesday that the U.S. will stand by Saudi Arabia regardless of whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Why it matters: Saudi Arabia and MBS will face no repercussions after an assassination some believed would fundamentally change the relationship. Democrats in Congress have been calling for a re-evaluation of the relationship, but Trump's position is that security and economic benefits make the relationship too important. "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," he said.
The backdrop: The Saudis are central to Trump's Middle East strategy, and he has been hesitant to rock the boat in the wake of Khashoggi's murder. Axios' Jonathan Swan has reported that, while Trump has admitted the murder of Khashoggi is "really bad," he has been privately questioning why the response has been so strong, especially when compared to the abuses from other countries like China.
Details: Trump said in his Tuesday statement that Saudi representatives described Khashoggi as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. A Saudi official denied to the Washington Post that MBS made the characterization on a call with U.S. officials.
- The statement follows an NBC News report that the administration was considering expelling Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, an enemy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in order to convince Turkey to ease up on the Saudis.