Speaking to Yahoo News, Kirsten Fontenrose, at the time director of Gulf affairs at the National Security Council, said that the then-president kept going back to that detail of the gruesome murder.
He reportedly said at the time: “I’ve been in difficult negotiations. I’ve never had to take a bone saw.”
Ms Fontenrose relayed the story on the final episode of the Conspiracyland podcast series concerning the death of Mr Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, 2018.
His death threw the Trump administration’s Middle East plans and peace efforts into disarray. Saudi Arabia was very much at the centre of the Trump strategy in the region and the killing of a US-based journalist, a contributor to The Washington Post, under the apparent direction of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), undermined the administration’s policy.
In multiple calls with both MBS and King Salman, then-president Trump repeatedly asked if they had knowledge of the killing or had ordered it — both denied involvement, promising to get to the bottom of it, Ms Fontenrose says.
She told Yahoo News: “I mean, he would go back to it and back to it and back to it, trying to press them and telling them, you know, ‘This will change everything, you guys. We’ve got to know. We’re with you. We’re standing behind Saudi Arabia ... but we’ve got to get to the bottom of this. ‘Was there a bone saw? Was there a bone saw?’”
Mr Trump reportedly said: “‘I’ve been in difficult negotiations. I’ve never had to take a bone saw.’”
According to Ms Fontenrose, the president turned to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at one point and asked: “‘Have you ever had to take a bone saw into negotiations?’ ‘No Mr. President, ha-ha.’ And pressing, pressing, pressing, and every time, ‘No, no, no, Donald, we didn’t know anything about it. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of this.’"
The crown prince has always denied the allegations and insisted he had nothing to do with the killing of Mr Khashoggi and claimed that “rogue killers” had acted outside of the direction of the Saudi government.
Earlier this year, a report published by the US intelligence services claimed MBS knew about, and approved of, the plan to kill the 59-year-old journalist, whose body has never been recovered.
The report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence cited the crown prince’s control of decision-making in Saudi Arabia as well as the involvement of a key adviser and members of the prince’s protective detail in the operation that killed Mr Khashoggi, a critic of the royal family.
Lawyers for Hatice Cengiz, Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee, have since served MBS with a legal complaint – allowing proceedings against the Saudi royal to proceed.
Ms Cengiz and members of a non-profit group the Saudi journalist established in Washington DC, filed a lawsuit against the crown prince, accusing him and others of the kidnap, drugging, torture, and assassination of Mr Khashoggi.
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