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    President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Washington

    'Trump Trying to Distance Himself From Criticism of Saudi Crown Prince - Scholar

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    US President Donald Trump has stated that he has been briefed on the recording but he didn’t have to listen to the actual tape of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. The Washington Post reported, citing CIA findings, that the Saudi Crown Prince had ordered journalist’s assassination in Istanbul last month.

    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?

    Dr Jeanne Zaino: Yeah, the president said it on Fox News Sunday show to Chris Wallace that he wouldn't listen because it is a very violent and very vicious tape and he had been fully briefed on it so there was no reason to hear what he called a ‘suffering tape, a terrible tape'. And that has become, you know, a headline-making statement.

    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.

    READ MORE: Saudi FM Blasts 'CIA Report' on Crown Prince's Alleged Role in Khashoggi Killing

    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.

    It was his first trip outside of the United States was to Saudi Arabia. He and his son-in-law have formed very close ties with the Crown Prince, who came as you recall in a sort of a PR visit to the United States. That was incredibly successful, so successful, you know, Time Magazine considered putting him on the front cover as a man of the year.

    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.

    READ MORE: EU Calls on Saudi Arabia to 'Shed Full Clarity' on Khashoggi Case

    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'.

    And I do think one benefit the president has is the midterm election leaves him with a Senate where they have picked up, likely picked up two maybe three seats, we are still waiting on one state to come through. We have just found out yesterday that Florida's Senate goes Republican.

    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.

    READ MORE: State Dept Refutes Reports on Final Conclusion in Khashoggi Case

    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.

    Related:

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    Saudi FM Blasts 'CIA Report' on Crown Prince's Alleged Role in Khashoggi Killing
    Berlin Bans 18 Saudis From Schengen Zone, Halts Arms Exports Amid Khashoggi Case
    France Mulls Sanctions Against Riyadh Over Khashoggi Murder - Foreign Minister
    Turkish Media Fabricated News on Gulf States Amid Khashoggi Case - UAE Minister
    Tags:
    assassination, Jamal Khashoggi, Mohamed bin Salman, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, Iran, Turkey, United States, Saudi Arabia
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