Politics

Saudi Leader Got Slap on Wrist, Trump Got Lower Oil Prices

Saudi and American leaders both get what they wanted after Khashoggi’s murder

Saudi officials arrive ahead of the visit by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the White House for meetings with President Donald Trump in March. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman got nary a slap on the wrist and President Donald Trump got lower oil prices he contends will give a jolt to a slowing U.S. economy.

At least that’s what the U.S. leader signaled anew on Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after he issued an exclamation point-riddled statement siding with KBS over his own intelligence apparatus over the murder of a Washington Post journalist at a Saudi diplomatic facility in Turkey.

“Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I’ve kept them down. They’ve helped me keep them down,” the president said during a mini-news conference Tuesday as he headed for Marine One en route to his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“We’re going to stay with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said a few minutes later in another wild 20-minute question-and-answer session on the South Lawn. “Saudi Arabia is probably the second-biggest oil producer. They’ve worked with us very well. We’ve kept oil prices down.”

He warned of a $150 price tag per barrel if the Khashoggi murder caused a U.S.-Saudi split.

[Trump Goes There While Pardoning Turkeys. Of Course He Did]

Then he appeared to send what sounded like a message to KBS.

“Right now we have low oil prices, or relatively,” he said. “I’d like to see it go down even lower — lower.”

Trump was even more overt Wednesday morning about how the falling oil prices have influenced his thinking about Salman’s possible involvement in the murder of the Post columnist, who had fled Saudi Arabia so he could write critically of KBS and his government.

The American president, for the second consecutive day, suggested economic factors like low oil prices and jobs created by weapons sales are more important to him than the killing of a U.S. resident and journalist that he claims KBS called — using Trump’s description of the American media — an “enemy of the state.”

He tweeted that thanks for Saudi Arabia, Americans have received “a big Tax Cut” via lower oil prices. And then he wrote this: “Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”

Again, a day after absolving Salman, Trump stopped just shy of revealing a quid pro quo — but he clearly was asking KBS for more in what increasingly appears a transactional relationship.

Khashoggi was killed after being summoned to Istanbul on Oct. 2. At that time, oil prices were above $80 per barrel. National security experts in the United States almost immediately speculated Salman, who has a tight grip over his country, likely knew about or greenlit the Istanbul operation. As Trump remained coy then turned defiant even as the CIA leaked its conclusion that KBS likely was involved, oil prices steadily declined.

What was nearly an $85 per barrel price has declined to $54.71 per barrel as of 8:30 a.m. (EST) Wednesday.

The businessman and reality television star-turned-president made clear Tuesday that, under his watch, business deals with other countries will take priority — even over what he has called the “terrible” murder of Khashoggi.

“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 said in the Tuesday statement.

[Trump Slams 9th Circuit as a ‘Disgrace,’ Intends to File ‘Major Complaint’]

Before thanking Saudi Arabia as he headed out for a Wednesday morning round of golf, Trump made his priorities clear on Tuesday afternoon.

“Right now we have oil prices in great shape,” Trump said. “I’m not going to destroy the world economy, and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.”

Trump also used that statement to issue a thinly veiled veto threat of any legislation Congress might send him that aims to punish KBS. But members of both parties are expressing outrage and promising action.

“I plan to vote against any future arms sales and appropriation to Saudi Arabia,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Tuesday evening. “I also believe that the United States should consider sanctions against the crown prince and that the Saudi ambassador to the United States should not be allowed to continue in that role.”

Watch: Trump’s 2018 Turkey Pardon with Peas and Carrots

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