On Khashoggi slaying, Trump boasted about 'saving' MBS

It's one thing to see the world through a morally bankrupt lens; it's something else for a leader to effectively brag about it on tape.
Image: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh on October 24, 2017.Fayez Nureldine / AFP - Getty Images file

There's no shortage of revelations in Bob Woodward's new book on Donald Trump's presidency, but Business Insider yesterday highlighted a new one: the president's boast to the Washington Post journalist about protecting Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from scrutiny after Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

Woodward wrote that Trump called him on January 22 shortly after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During the conversation, Woodward pressed the president about Khashoggi's gruesome murder. Khashoggi, 59, a longtime Washington Post columnist known for his criticism of the Saudi kingdom, was assassinated and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after going there to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage. The CIA concluded a little over a month later that Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, had personally ordered Khashoggi's murder.

Woodward apparently explained to Trump in January that the Washington Post was "upset about the Khashoggi killing," especially given the fact that Khashoggi worked for the newspaper. The president initially responded by trying to change the subject to Iran.

Pressed further, Trump said, in reference to Mohammed bin Salman, "I saved his ass. I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop."

Asked yesterday what he meant by those comments, the president told a reporter, "You’ll have to figure that out yourself."

According to Business Insider's report on Woodward's book, the author also asked Trump if he believed MBS's denial about his alleged role in Khashoggi' murder. After hedging, the president eventually replied, "He says very strongly that he didn't do it. Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time."

Oh my.

First, if it seems jarring to see an American president boast about protecting a foreign leader from scrutiny, after the foreign leader is accused of ordering the murder of American writer, it's not your imagination.

Second, Trump seemed oblivious to the fact that he was making these comments to a Washington Post journalist about the slaying of a Washington Post journalist.

And third, the president seemed to suggest he's willing to look the other way about accusations like these, just so long as the accused is making investments in the United States (investments that Trump has exaggerated in ridiculous ways).

It's one thing to see the world through a morally bankrupt lens; it's something else for a leader to effectively brag about it on tape.