California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said after being briefed on the slaying of Jamal Khashoggi that President Donald Trump has not been telling the truth about the journalist’s death.
“I have been briefed by the CIA,” Schiff said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And while I cannot discuss the contents of the briefing in any way, I can say that I think the President is being dishonest with the American people.”
Schiff, who is expected to chair the House Intelligence Committee in January, said previously that House Democrats would probe the Khashoggi killing and Trump’s comments around it. In a statement last Tuesday, Trump signaled he would not take action against Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump’s statement read.
In his CNN interview, Schiff said Trump’s own statement undermined his standing.
“The President is not being honest with the country about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Schiff said. “I think in part, he feels that by saying that we don’t know or that the world is a dangerous place or everybody does it, he think it makes him look strong. It actually makes him look weak.”
Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the country’s government, went missing October 2 after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage. The CIA concluded earlier this month that bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing, despite the Saudi government’s denials that the de facto ruler was involved, according to a senior US official and a source familiar with the matter.
In a separate interview on the same program, Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst said she was “with her colleagues” on this issue and still left out the expectation that Trump could act in response to the Khashoggi killing.
“I wouldn’t say he is necessarily giving them a pass, again, because they are such an important ally in that region,” Ernst said. “However, I think at such a time when it becomes necessary, the President also needs to speak directly to the Saudis and say enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, Schiff indicated that his panel and others would likely probe Trump’s finances and those of his businesses, including as they might relate to Saudi Arabia or Russia.
“Is his personal financial interest driving US policy in the Gulf?” Schiff said. “Is it driving US policy vis-a-vis the Russians? We don’t know, but it would be irresponsible not to find out.”