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Trump says he is ‘very angry’ over murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi but again defends Saudi crown prince in the case

President Trump meets with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a working breakfast on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 29, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)

OSAKA, Japan — President Trump on Saturday professed to be “very angry” over the murder last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate, but the president again declined to pin responsibility on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom he called “my friend.”

Trump said nothing about Khashoggi at a photo op Salman before their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit here, ignoring shouted questions about the matter from reporters. In brief remarks, Trump called it a “great honor” to be with the crown prince and noted that “Saudi Arabia is a good purchaser of American products.” Salman returned the compliment.

But asked at a news conference later in the day whether he raised the issue with Salman privately, Trump said Riyadh has prosecuted “13 people” in connection with Khashoggi’s death and suggested more prosecutions were coming.

President Trump’s June 29 news conference during the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan covered a wide range of topics. (Video: The Washington Post)

Still, Trump again defended Salman, saying there was no “finger directly” pointing at him, despite a U.N. report that concluded there was, in fact, credible evidence tying the plot to the royal family. Khashoggi was living in self-imposed exile after writing columns that criticized the Salman family; he was abducted and dismembered after visiting the consulate in October 2018 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.

Trump and other senior administration officials have consistently minimized the assassination, suggesting that it would be unwise for the United States to punish Riyadh or cut off relations with Mohammed over the killing because Saudi Arabia is an important partner to the United States in the Middle East.

Trump posted a photo on Instagram of him posing with Salman. In the photo, the president is smiling broadly. The front page of the Japan Times’ Saturday newspaper featured a G-20 “family photo” of dozens of world leaders waving at the camera, while Trump is engaged in conversation with Salman, standing next to him.

“I’ve spoke to his father at great length,” Trump said, referring to King Salman. “They’ve been a terrific ally. They’re creating millions of jobs in this country.

“They’ve taken it very, very seriously. They will continue to,” Trump added “I let everybody know I’m very unhappy about that whole event.”

The president emphasized that he did not find it acceptable for a journalist to be murdered. “Or anyone else,” he said. “I’m extremely angry and unhappy about a thing like that taking place.”

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In a tweet, Trump appears to invite Kim Jong Un to meet him at the Korean demilitarized zone after G-20 summit

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