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Leak: Trump said he’d be ‘stupid’ to confront MBS over Khashoggi murder

Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud (L) meets US President Donald Trump (R) at the White House in Washington, United States on 14 March 2017 [Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency]

A senior official within Donald Trump’s administration has claimed that the US president choose not to confront Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi fearing a spike in oil prices. The allegation was made in a new book  – “A Warning” by “Anonymous” – by an unnamed official who has been revealing details of chaos within the White House.

In the book which will be published next week, the official describes how Trump was roundly criticised for his lacklustre response to Khashoggi’s murder. At the time of his killing by 15-man Saudi hit squad, which US intelligence concluded was carried out under the order of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Trump’s timid reaction made headlines. He backed the Saudis while details of the grisly murder were unfolding on a daily basis. His staunch support for Riyadh also put him at odds with Congress.

Trump is reported to have said that it would be foolish to stand up to the crown prince, colloquially known MBS, over the killing, despite enormous international and domestic pressure to do so. “Oil is at fifty dollars a barrel,” the president is reported to have told aides according to a copy of the book obtained by CNN. “Do you know how stupid it would be to pick this fight? Oil would go up to $150 dollars a barrel. Jesus. How f****** stupid would I be?”

READ: Trump’s administration frustrated, disappointed with Netanyahu

The anonymous official, who described himself as part of a “resistance inside the Trump administration” in an article in 2018, said Trump was frustrated by the discussion. He reportedly scolded his aides by telling them, “I am not going to talk about this anymore!”

It is also suggested Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner played a major role in keeping MBS in the White House’s good books. According to the official, Kushner, who is also Trump’s key adviser on the Middle East, strongly advocated for MBS behind the scene.

Kushner’s close ties with the Saudi crown prince is well documented. The two are said to be close enough to have raised suspicion that normal protocols were being ignored when they met for high level meetings in Riyadh.

“You’ve got to see it from his [MBS] perspective,” Kushner is reported telling US officials.

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