Trump Says Saudi Arabian Prince Feels Worse About Khashoggi Murder Than He Does

President Donald Trump told active-duty military officers overseas Thursday that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, believed by the CIA to have orchestrated the murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, "hates" the crime and subsequent cover-up more than Trump himself did.

Speaking to members of the military through video conference from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, the president used his Thanksgiving message to emphasize his loyalty to and support for the Saudi Arabian prince. "We have a very strong ally in Saudi Arabia," he said.

"We have an ally that says they did not commit at the top level, the crown prince, the king, they did not commit this atrocity." The president explained to the military officers that he disliked the execution of Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post and frequently criticized the Saudi Arabian royal family, "more than you do." But, he said, "the fact is they create tremendous wealth and a tremendous number of jobs through their purchases, and very importantly, they keep the oil price down."

President Donald Trump speaks to the media after talking to members of the military via teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Thanksgiving Day, November 22. Trump used his Thanksgiving Day address to military officers overseas to proclaim his support for Saudi Arabia. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The president then said that he hated "the crime, I hate what's done, I hate the coverup and I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do."

The president said it was unclear if the prince had committed any crime and that the "CIA points it both ways," without clarifying what that meant. The Washington Post reported last week that a CIA assessment found Mohammed bin Salman had directly ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

Trump said that the report was wrong, and that the CIA had not reached a conclusion. "They didn't conclude," Trump said on the video call. "No no, they didn't conclude. I'm sorry. No they didn't conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways. I have the report…they have not concluded, I don't know if anyone's going to be able to conclude the crown prince did it."

Turkey's government has insisted repeatedly that the killing was ordered by the "highest levels" of the Saudi government.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey in early October to get papers related to his upcoming marriage. Saudi Arabian officials initially insisted that Khashoggi had left unharmed but later admitted he had been killed inside the consulate during a fight with guards.

By the end of October, the Saudi Arabian attorney general said that the murder had been planned. Eighteen Saudis said to be associated with the crime were arrested.

Khashoggi, once close with high-ranking Saudi officials, became openly critical of crown prince Mohammad bin Salman and King Salman. He moved to the United States where he became a resident of Virginia.

The president said Thursday that the blame for the killing shouldn't be placed on any person or government. "Maybe the world should be held accountable," he said. "Because the world's a very very vicious place."

Trump Says Saudi Arabian Prince Feels Worse About Khashoggi Murder Than He Does | U.S.