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Trump defends Saudis, says "maybe the world" should be held accountable for Khashoggi's murder

Last Updated Nov 22, 2018 1:09 PM EST

After speaking with troops, President Trump spent part of his Thanksgiving morning defending Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Mr. Trump doubled down on his Tuesday statement that he sides with the Saudis, saying the Saudi crown prince and his father both "vehemently" deny a role in his death. The CIA, Mr. Trump said Thursday, never "concluded" that the Saudi royals were responsible in the death, although CBS News has confirmed that CIA intelligence points to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordering the murder. Mr. Trump has refused to listen to audio of the killing. 

Asked who should be held responsible for Khashoggi's death, the president said Thursday, "Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place."

"So I hate the crime and I hate what is done and I hate the cover-up," Mr. Trump also said. "And I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do."

The president has long couched his defense of the Saudis in economic terms, saying the financial relationship between the two nations is indispensable. 

"Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs – and frankly, if we went by this standard, we wouldn't have anybody as an ally," Mr. Trump said Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the president announced there would be no further punishment for the Saudis after Khashoggi's death, a statement that sent shockwaves across Washington and was described by critics as akin to propaganda for the Saudis. 

"It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event," the president said in the statement. "Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Mr. Trump said in his exclamation mark-laced written remarks. 

Mr. Trump also said he would be interviewing candidates for administration positions over the weekend, although he didn't say whom or what positions.

On Thanksgiving, the president also continued to blast the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the nation's judiciary system. Mr. Trump believes the court rules unfairly against his administration, and his blistering remarks elicited a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts Wednesday. 

"Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster," Mr. Trump tweeted Thanksgiving morning. "It is out of control, has a horrible reputation, is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%, & is used to get an almost guaranteed result. Judges must not Legislate Security......and Safety at the Border, or anywhere else. They know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe. Our great Law Enforcement professionals MUST BE ALLOWED TO DO THEIR JOB! If not there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death. We want the Constitution as written!"

After teleconferencing with troops abroad, the president visited troops at a nearby Coast Guard center, where they were served sandwiches. Mr. Trump praised them for their work.

"If you were doing a brand, they would say this is one of the great brand increases," he said, adding, "Nobody has gone up more than the Coast Guard."  

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.