President Trump has done several lengthy interviews this week, answering questions on topics ranging from his views on climate change (he has a “natural instinct” for science) to the Federal Reserve (it’s his “biggest threat”). But in all his recent media appearances, one subject continues to produce only reluctant responses: Saudi Arabia and the country’s connection to the disappearance and alleged dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed by the likes of Trevor Noah, who lambasted the president Wednesday for his answers regarding Saudi Arabia’s role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and potential murder, or what Noah called “the question that everyone is really after this week.”
In recent days, more evidence has come to light that Khashoggi was murdered and then dismembered by Saudi agents — including an audio recording, which Turkish officials say captured his gruesome demise and proves he was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where he was last seen. (The last column by Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, before his disappearance was published Wednesday.) However, Trump, Noah said, still seems “extremely reluctant to blame Saudi Arabia.”
“Many people have suspected that it’s because of money and it turns out Trump also suspects that it’s because of money,” Noah quipped, before playing a clip of the president’s Tuesday interview with Fox Business.
Once again bringing up the lucrative arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that he told CBS’s Lesley Stahl “everybody in the world wanted,” Trump reiterated the importance of what he heralded as “the largest order ever given by an outside country.” He told Fox Business that U.S. leaders want to be smart, adding, “I don’t want to give up a $110 billion dollar order or whatever it is.”
“You know, say what you want about Trump, but he wears his moral bankruptcy on his sleeve,” said Noah, fighting a smile as he slipped into his well-practiced impersonation of the president. “He’s straight up like, ‘Look, I know Saudi Arabia killed a dude, but we all about the Benjamins, yo. Yeah, these long ties don’t buy themselves folks.”
In a rare moment, Noah complimented Trump for his candor. Other presidents have been faced with similar decisions and had to “make these types of calculations,” but Trump is the only one who will admit it, he said.
Noah wasn’t alone in his examination of the president’s responses on the subject. On CBS, Stephen Colbert also latched onto Trump’s repeated praise of U.S.-Saudi relations, playing a clip of the president speaking from the Oval Office on Wednesday and describing Saudi Arabia’s commitment to “purchase $450 billion worth of things.”
The Saudis’ shopping list looked something like this, Colbert said: “Military, things, Donald Trump.”
“Dance for me, Donald, dance,” Colbert said, as he waved his arms about wildly.
Trump has repeatedly defended the country’s leaders, suggesting mysterious “rogue killers” may have been responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder. In a Tuesday interview with the Associated Press, the president delivered what may be his strongest defense yet, criticizing the widespread condemnation of Saudi Arabia by comparing the current situation with what Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh experienced when he was accused of sexual misconduct by three women.
“I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump said. “You know, here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh. And he was innocent all the way.” (Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations.)
The president’s comment left Noah shocked.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked incredulously. “Brett Kavanaugh? You’re going to bring Brett Kavanaugh into this?”
Noah added, “I like how Trump’s way of dealing with an extremely sensitive issue is to bring in another extremely sensitive issue,” likening this instance to if the president were to have Bill Cosby speak about school shootings.
But Noah, who expressed mock sympathy for “poor Supreme Court Justice for life Brett Kavanaugh,” acknowledged that what Trump said “captures the truth.”
“In many ways, this is like the Kavanaugh situation,” he said. “Trump says he wants to find out what happened, but in reality he’s already made up his mind.”
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