White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner would not say Monday whether he believes Saudi Arabia’s story about the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I’d say that right now, as an administration, we’re more in the fact-finding phase,” Kushner said at a CNN event. “Once we have all the facts, we’ll make an assessment.”
Trump’s remarks Monday come after Saudi officials announced Friday, after weeks of shifting stories, that Khashoggi had been killed during a fistfight inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Officials said 18 people had been arrested in connection with the killing.
The explanation does not track with earlier reporting about the case, including alleged intelligence provided by Turkey that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered with a bone saw and removed from the consulate.
As The Washington Post noted Monday, Kushner has developed a close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and he said Monday that he has advised the prince to be “fully transparent.” Asked how bin Salman responded to his advice, Kushner said, “We’ll see.”
“We’re getting facts in from multiple places,” Kusher added. “Once those facts come in, the secretary of state will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe and what we think is credible and what we think is not credible.”
Late Friday night, Kushner’s father-in-law, President Trump, said he believed the arrests were a “good first step.”
“I think it’s a good first step. It’s a big step. It’s a lot of people,” Trump said Friday, speaking at Luke Air Force base in Arizona. “A lot of people involved, and I think it’s a great first step.”
The president added that he does not want to take economic measures to punish the country, saying, “I would prefer, if there’s going to be some form of sanction or what we may determine to do, if anything, because this was a lot of people they’re talking about — people pretty high up — but I would prefer that we don’t use as retribution canceling $110 billion worth of work, which means 600,000 jobs.”
Kushner praised Trump’s response Monday, saying he thinks the president is focused on “what’s good for America.”
“The Middle East is a rough place. It’s been a rough place for a very long time,” he added. “We have to be able to pursue our strategic objectives. But we also have to deal with what is obviously a terrible situation.”
As ThinkProgress has previously written, the Trump family has lucrative dealings with Saudi Arabia. NBC detailed a 2001 deal wherein the Saudi government bought an entire floor in Trump World Tower for $4.5 million, and years before that, Trump sold a yacht to a Saudi prince for $20 million.
Additionally, in August, the Washington Post reported that the Saudi regime has been pumping money directly into Trump’s pockets through his hotels.
Both Trump and his family have repeatedly denied they have any business ties with Saudi Arabia.