The CIA says Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi before it happened. But will that be enough for President Trump to turn against one of the most powerful leaders in the Middle East? I'm Andy Sullivan in Washington where Trump is at odds with his own government and his own party over the Khashoggi case, even as evidence mounts that the Saudi crown prince had a hand in the killing.
Now, we've seen this sort of dynamic before. Remember, Trump has refused to blame Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. In this case, more clarity could come as soon as Tuesday, when the administration is due to issue a formal report on the Saudi dissident's death. Senior advisor Kellyanne Conway says Trump is taking the issue seriously.
>> He's going to look at the final report and act accordingly.>> The CIA increasingly convinced that the Saudi prince known as MbS ordered the killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The agency's conclusions made public after it shared them with US lawmakers last week. That's raising the pressure on Trump from close allies in Congress, like Senator Lindsey Graham.
Saudi prosecutors say the country's de facto ruler knew nothing of the operation in which Khashoggi was apparently strangled and his body dismembered. Trump appearing to accept MbS's denials, unwilling at this point to condemn a rising power in the Saudi government.>> And he firmly denied that.>> A major buyer of US weapons and a confidant of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Turkish authorities leaking details of what they describe as an audio recording of the incident. Trump says he doesn't wanna hear it.>> Saudi Arabia's been a great ally.>> The US Treasury Department last week imposing sanctions on 17 Saudis that it says were involved in Khashoggi’s death. No sanctions against MbS or his inner circle.
Other countries are ratcheting up the pressure. Germany said on Monday that it'll stop all arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Now, US presidents typically have wide latitude to conduct foreign policy in their own terms, but Trump is increasingly isolated on this issue. He's one of the few world leaders still standing by MbS.
We'll see if he's forced to change course.