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U.S. President Donald Trump Refuses To Listen To Key Evidence In Khashoggi Murder Case

In the phone call, Khalid told Khashoggi that it would be safe for him to go the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents for his marriage.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump says he has been fully briefed on an audio recording of the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month, but has no intention of listening to it because of the violence it depicts.

“It’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape,” Trump told Fox News Sunday in a White House interview that was taped Friday.

“It’s very violent, very vicious and terrible,” Trump said.

Trump said Saturday the U.S. government would release its findings on the October 2 killing of Khashoggi on Tuesday. The State Department says no final conclusions have been reached, although some U.S. news accounts have reported that the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh’s de facto leader, ordered the killing.

Asked in the Fox interview if the crown prince lied to him about his involvement, Trump replied, “I don’t know. Who can really know? But I can say this, he’s got many people… that say he had no knowledge.”

Trump added, “He told me that he had nothing to do with it. He told me that, I would say, maybe five times at different points, as recently as a few days ago.”

Saudi Arabia has filed charges against 11 operatives accused of involvement in Khashoggi’s killing and said it will seek the death penalty against five of them.

Trump conceded that people close to the prince “were probably involved.” But he said, “I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.”

Fox interviewer Chris Wallace asked Trump whether he would go along with moves in Congress to cut off U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen or halt arms sales to Riyadh, but Trump said it depends.

“I want to see Yemen end,” he said. “It takes two to tango and Iran has to end also. I want Saudi to stop but I want Iran to stop also.”

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump answers questions from members of the media as he leaves the White House, Nov. 17, 2018, in Washington. VOA

Trump was briefed Saturday on the U.S. investigation of the killing of Khashoggi by telephone by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while the president was aboard Air Force One en route to California to inspect the devastation from wildfires in the western state.

The State Department said the U.S. government “is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing… accountable” but that “numerous unanswered questions” remain.

The assessment by the CIA, first reported Friday by The Washington Post, contradicts that of Saudi Arabia, whose top prosecutor one day earlier exonerated the crown prince in the killing of Khashoggi.

U.S. officials say the CIA concluded that 15 Saudi agents flew in a Saudi government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.

Khashoggi, who wrote opinion columns for the Post and was a critic of the Saudi crown prince, was killed at the Saudi consulate while he was trying to get documents for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.

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This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Oct. 9, 2018 claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

The Post said the CIA based its conclusion on multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, who is also the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.

In the phone call, Khalid told Khashoggi that it would be safe for him to go the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents for his marriage. The paper said it was not known whether or not Khalid knew Khashoggi would be killed.

Also Read: The Truth About the Killing of Khashoggi Will Be Revealed By The Turkish President

Khalid denied in a tweet on Friday that he had spoken with Khashoggi.

“The last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim,” he said. (VOA)

 

Next Story

Trump’s Idea to Siphon Money for Border Wall Meets Resistance

The military construction budget, in particular, is a tempting target for the administration, but tapping into those funds is politically fraught.

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People gather to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to build a border wall, at Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, Feb. 15, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump’s decision last week to declare a national emergency related to the security of the Southwest border has created confusion and concern on military bases across the country, which could be facing unexpected cuts in funding for major construction projects and drug interdiction programs.

In all, the White House is planning to use authority given to the president in times of national emergencies to redirect $6.1 billion from the Pentagon’s budget to help fund more than 320 kilometers (200 miles) of the wall the president has promised to build on the southern border to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. The money would come from the military construction budget ($3.6 billion) and a Department of Defense drug interdiction fund ($2.5 billion.)

The military construction budget, in particular, is a tempting target for the administration, but tapping into those funds is politically fraught. Unlike other money appropriated by Congress, which must be spent (or “obligated,” in budget-speak) in the year it is authorized, military construction funds can be spent over a period of five years. This means there are billions of dollars sitting in Pentagon accounts right now that haven’t been officially spent.

“To my knowledge it’s unprecedented, particularly in military construction,” said Stephen Ellis, executive vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog. “As opposed to some other accounts, every dollar in that has a target. Every dollar that is appropriated in military construction — there is no slush fund — is actually going to build a particular project on a particular installation at a particular time. There is a victim for every dollar that is taken from that account and directed to the wall.”

 

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FILE – Construction workers check a new section of bollard wall in Santa Teresa, N.M., as seen from the Mexican side of the border in San Jeronimo, on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. VOA

Real-world effects

Redirecting that money to other purposes will have painful real-world effects on communities across the country that were expecting — even depending on — those funds being spent on contracts with local construction firms and other service providers. And all of those communities have members of Congress who carefully monitor federal spending in their districts, many of whom pride themselves on delivering such projects to their constituents.

In Kentucky, for example, more than $140 million in funding was on the books for Fiscal 2019, according to Department of Defense budget documents. That includes a $62 million project to fund a new middle school for the children of service members at Fort Campbell.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday, Kentucky Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, who chairs the House Budget Committee, criticized the president’s proposal.

“[T]hese are military families,” he said. “These are the kids of our soldiers, probably some of whom are at the border right now enforcing Donald Trump’s fallacious strategy.”

In Ohio, where construction, among other things, was expected to begin on a new intelligence production complex at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and a new machine gun range at the Army National Guard’s Camp Ravenna, federal funding is now in doubt.

Ohio Republican Congressman Mike Turner, who said in a statement that he generally supports the president’s border strategy, nevertheless added, “I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects.”

In Texas, home to Republican Congressman Mack Thornberry, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, more than $250 million allocated for military construction projects, including infantry training grounds and medical facilities, is suddenly in question.

Thornberry also said in a statement that he generally supports the president’s goals at the border, but like many other members of Congress, he balked at taking the funds from the military. Doing so, he said, will “undercut one of the most significant accomplishments of the last two years beginning to repair and rebuild our military.”

Appropriations process

Because of rules governing the federal appropriations process, money that has been “obligated” through a federal contracting process cannot be taken back by the administration, so contracts in effect before the declaration of a national emergency will not be affected.

The confusion surrounding what impact the move would have on military facilities was only made worse by conflicting signals from the administration.

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President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. VOA

In a Rose Garden appearance in which he announced his plan, Trump suggested that he had identified programs that would lose funding. He said that he had spoken to unnamed “generals” who told him they believed the border barrier to be more important than other projects to which funds had been allocated.

The president himself seemed to say that he had been made aware of programs that could be cut, adding they “didn’t sound too important to me.”

A day later, however, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Reuters that he would be meeting with service chiefs to identify projects that would lose funding in order to accommodate the administration’s plans.

As of Tuesday morning, a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee said that Congress had still not been made aware of the programs that would be cut to make funding available for the border wall.

Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency has provoked a complex set of reactions from members of Congress.

Many Republicans, including senior figures in the Senate such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have expressed support for the declaration, saying they agree that the situation on the border amounts to a crisis.

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Senator Marco Rubio questions witnesses before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. VOA

Funding method a problem

Even among Republicans who are generally sympathetic to Trump’s insistence that a wall is necessary on the Southwest border, his chosen method of funding is the problem.

The U.S. Constitution specifically grants Congress the sole ability to authorize federal spending, and for more than two years, Congress has specifically refused to provide the president with funding for a border wall. A number of Republican lawmakers are unhappy at what they see as an attempt to end-run the legislative branch.

“We have to be careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said in an appearance on CNBC Tuesday. “If today, the national emergency is border security … tomorrow, the national emergency might be climate change.”

Across the aisle, Democrats have been almost uniformly dismissive of the president’s calls for a border barrier and are even more united in their opposition to his use of emergency authority to fund it.

Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas announced Tuesday that he had secured 78 co-sponsors for a proposed Joint Resolution terminating the president’s emergency declaration. If Democrats are able to pass the resolution in the House, it would force the Republican-controlled Senate to vote on the bill as well.

This would, at the very least, force many Republican senators to go on the record as supporting or opposing Trump’s actions.

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, addresses reporters after a ribbon-cutting at a U.S. Coast Guard regional command center, Feb. 20, 2019, in South Portland, Maine. Collins said that she would vote for a congressional resolution disapproving of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border. VOA

ALSO READ: Now This California Plant May Hold Promise For Treating Alzheimer’s

If it were to pass the Senate — not impossible, given the number of Republican lawmakers who have said they are opposed to the state of emergency declaration — President Trump would still have the ability to veto it. (VOA)