Middle East expert says Trump is giving the Saudis a 'bear hug'

Middle East scholar Hussein Ibish said Wednesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE has effectively given the Saudis "a bear hug" after Trump refused to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

"He's doubling, tripling, and quadrupling down on every aspect of the relationship with Saudi Arabia. This is as big a bear hug as the president could have given to Saudi Arabia in general, to the government of Saudi Arabia, and to the royal family," Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute, told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on "Rising."

"Clearly he's not budging at all from his complete buy into the relationship," he continued. 

Trump on Tuesday did not blame Crown Prince Mohammed for Khashoggi's murder, despite the CIA reportedly concluding that the crown prince ordered the killing.

The president also said the U.S. would keep a "steadfast" relationship with the Saudis. 

"Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!" Trump said in a lengthy statement issued by the White House.

Trump added that the U.S. "may never know" who was responsible for the journalist's death.

Turkish officials have said that a Saudi team killed Khashoggi inside the country's consulate in Istanbul when he entered on Oct. 2 before dismembering his body.

Ibish said Trump could be expecting for damning evidence to come out from the Intelligence Community about Khashoggi's murder. 

"It seems to me this is a pre-emptive move. It looks like he expects some very damning things to come out from the intelligence community, even more, specific than have already, and perhaps a government finding, more formal than we've had already about likely responsibility for Jamal Khashoggi," he said.

"It looks like he wants to pre-empt that, and give all of his reasons, rather muddled ones for basically not caring much."

— Julia Manchester