In an unusual move, on Tuesday President Donald Trump issued an official statement, titled "Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia" (and subtitled "America First!") in which he announced his solidarity with Saudi Arabia in the face of mounting evidence that the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi:
The statement read in part:
"King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi," the president insisted. "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!"
This did not sit well with many, not the least of whom was Fred Ryan, CEO and Publisher of The Washington Post, where Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist.
Ryan penned a scathing rebuke of Trump's refusal to acknowledge that Khashoggi was murdered on the orders of the Crown Prince, calling it "a betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights and the expectation of trust and honesty in our strategic relationships."
In his statement, Ryan spoke for many:
“President Trump’s response to the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights and the expectation of trust and honesty in our strategic relationships. He is placing personal relationships and commercial interests above American interests in his desire to continue to do business as usual with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia."
He went on:
"President Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place. His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so. An innocent man, brutally slain, deserves better, as does the cause of truth and justice and human rights."
People hailed Ryan's statement.
Trump on Tuesday afternoon insinuated the alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia was far too valuable to be challenged.
Trump's penchant for trusting the word of autocrats over his own intelligence agencies was in full view.
Trump reiterated his solidarity with Saudi Arabia later to reporters.
"If we abandon Saudi it would be a terrible mistake," Trump later told reporters. He added he was "not going to destroy the economy of our country" by potentially disrupting the flow of oil from the Middle Eastern kingdom.
Trump also cited the alleged $450 billion worth of Saudi money he claims is necessary to keep our economy chugging along. "
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year," Trump said, "the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States."
Trump has repeated this "pants on fire" lie innumerable times since Khashoggi's disappearance.
"It's a very simple equation for me," Trump gloated. "I'm about make America great again and I'm about America first."
Ryan was having none of it.
"In this failure of leadership from President Trump," Ryan concludes, "it now falls to Congress to stand up for America’s true values and lasting interests.”