“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 statement, adding that “we may never know” who was responsible.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and critic of the government in Riyadh, was killed after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. After changing its official account multiple times, the Saudi government acknowledged he was murdered by a team of agents who reportedly dismembered his body, which still has not been found.   

Trump indicated to reporters Tuesday that one of the primary reasons he values the U.S.-Saudi relationship is a fear that sanctions or other punishments against the Islamic kingdom could cause oil price spikes, since it is the No. 3 oil producer in the world, behind the U.S. and Russia.

“If you want to see oil prices go to $150 a barrel … all you have to do is break up our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” he said before leaving Washington for his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Trump repeatedly pressured Saudi Arabia in the run-up to the midterm elections to boost oil production to keep prices down, particularly since U.S. sanctions against Iran kicked in Nov. 4, which he had feared would raise prices.

Trump in the statement indicated he believes that close financial and diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia should override any concerns about Crown Prince Mohammed’s alleged involvement in the plot. 

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!” the president said.

Lawmakers throughout the day on Tuesday pushed back on Trump’s unequivocal support for Saudi Arabia.

“The President indicates that Saudi Arabia is the lesser two evils compared to Iran and so the U.S. won’t punish Saudi Arabia for the brutal killing and dismemberment of a dissident journalist in their consulate. I disagree,” Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCorker mocks White House as ‘public relations firm’ for Saudi crown prince Graham warns Trump not to look the other way on Saudi Arabia Rand Paul pans Trump’s statement on Khashoggi killing, calls it ‘Saudi Arabia First’ MORE (R-Ky.), who has sided with Trump numerous times on foreign policy issues, wrote on Twitter.

“I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First,” he added.

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