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Biden knocks Trump for ‘coddling’ Saudi leaders after Khashoggi’s disappearance

Former vice president Joe Biden criticized President Trump's response to the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and his "need to coddle autocrats and dictators." (Video: Reuters)

Former vice president Joe Biden said in an interview broadcast Thursday that President Trump “seems to have a love affair with autocrats,” criticizing his posture toward Saudi leaders following the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“He’s already making excuses before the facts are known,” Biden said of Trump during an interview with “CBS This Morning.” “It hurts us internationally.”

Trump has continued to press for patience with an inquiry into the suspected torture and murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and stressed denials of involvement by the Saudi king and crown prince.

Amid global outrage over Khashoggi, Trump takes soft stance toward Saudis

“I just don’t know why this administration seems to feel the need to coddle autocrats and dictators from Putin to Kim Jong Un to . . . Duterte,” Biden said, referring to the leaders of Russia, North Korea and the Philippines. “I don’t understand it.”

When political allies and foreign leaders are accused of wrongdoing, President Trump often turns to their denials for evidence. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Asked by co-host Norah O’Donnell to explain Trump’s behavior, Biden said: “I don’t want to speculate on my worst fears. But either he doesn’t know what he is doing or he has an absolutely convoluted notion of what allows America to lead the world.”

Biden, who is weighing a 2020 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, said doubts he has harbored about the leadership of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been confirmed in the past few weeks.

“My doubts are that there’s very little sense of rule of law, respect for human rights, dignity,” Biden said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday. “The allegations that are made so far . . . are not inconsistent with the way the kingdom would act.”

As the crisis over Khashoggi’s disappearance has deepened, Trump has emphasized positive aspects of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and rebuffed calls to respond by cutting off arms sales to the kingdom.