The news comes as the EU has called on Saudi Arabia to ‘shed clarity’ on the Jamal Khashoggi case.
Radio Sputnik has discussed this with Dr Jeanne Zaino, an American political analyst and professor of Political Science at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.
Sputnik: The US President stated that he didn't have to listen to the tape given that he had been briefed on the content. Why have media outlets in the US been focusing so much on the president choosing to not listen to the tape? What is your take on this one?
And I think the reason the media outlets are focusing on it here is because it's in keeping with what has been the sort of scene of the coverage of this horrific event which is that the president is going to great lengths to try to distance himself from any sort of criticism of certainly the Crown Prince and the Saudi Arabian government.
And so this unwillingness to hear the actual tape is sort of another sign that the president does not want to say or do anything to isolate the Crown Prince and the government in Saudi Arabia. And he does want to maintain close ties there. And he is getting some real pushback on that from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress at this point.
Sputnik: Now we know that President Trump wants to obviously keep close ties because of this integral relationship they have got but he has noted the Saudi Prince as one of the US main allies in the Middle East which you have just mentioned. How do you see relations playing out between the two countries as more details emerge about the death of Khashoggi? I am sure he wants this story to go away but it is not going away, isn't it? And he still got this relationship to maintain, doesn't he?
Dr Jeanne Zaino: Absolutely! And I think you just hit it exactly on the head in terms of the challenge facing the president and the administration. On the one hand, he wants the story to go away, so if he is to say he heard an actual tape of what he describes as a horrific killing. It makes it all that much more real and so I think he is going to try as far as possible to distance himself. The president very early in the administration decided to go all-in on this relationship with the Crown Prince and Saudi Arabia.
You know, it really did open sort of this relationship. And there are several reasons for that. Among them: because Saudi Arabia has proved to be an important ally for the president in his fight against Iran, and also, of course, because of arms sales, and of course because of oil. And so it is a relationship the president has said very clearly he doesn't want to jeopardize because of this one horrific killing and that really sets up a real ethical humanitarian sort of questioning crisis here. You know, is the president going to sort of turn the other way in the face of this horrific killing or is he going to take action against those who may have ordered it and may have been part of it.
I think what we are likely to see is he will take action against those who were part of it. He will try as hard as possible to not take any action against the Crown Prince and we have seen him sort of faithful to that idea that there is no evidence that the Crown Prince ordered it even though the CIA has come out and said, and we'll hear more when this report comes out that there is direct evidence that he was responsible, puts the president in a really tough position with this ally that he has been trying to court.
Sputnik: Now many US lawmakers have been pushing for tougher sanctions to be placed on Saudi Arabia, this is what we are talking about. Is it likely that they will be introduced? It is a very delicate situation.
Dr Jeanne Zaino: People try to understand President Trump and the Trump administration's foreign policy which has been so long guided by these sorts of ‘humanitarian notions' and I am putting that in quotes. To see a president who comes out very clearly and says: ‘there are an economic interest and concern here and I am not going to push that aside in the interest of this one horrific event'.
So he does have a little bit more wiggle room if you will in the Senate and even though Republican thunders like Lindsey Graham have said they will not work with Saudi Arabia, they do want the president to take action. I think what is probably likely is that they will take, you know, maybe put some sanctions in place but this will be sort of a more mild push in that direction than we might otherwise see.
I think Republicans, in the end, will end up lining up with the president calling for action but not quite as tough as maybe the Democrats would like. And he will be able to try to put this to bed and move forward if you will.
Sputnik: Well, he has already sanctioned, I think, seventeen individuals. Is there any more that he can actually do?
Dr Jeanne Zaino: Yeah, I think the president would like nothing more than it to be swept under the carpet. I think one of the really fascinating aspects of this case is it involves a member of the press, a Washington Post columnist as you know. So it really has set up, you know, another in a long line of incredible tension between the press in the United States and the president.
If this was a different person in another context I may say yes this will be pushed under the rug in the next month or so. I think it is going to be that much harder because this is one of the press's own and I think it really does whether we are talking more conservative or more liberal press in the United States. This is one that they are going to push on.
Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Dr Jeanne Zaino and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.