Trump: Saudi Arabia another case of 'guilty until proven innocent'

Trump: Saudi Arabia another case of 'guilty until proven innocent'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE on Tuesday criticized people blaming Saudi Arabia for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying they are prejudging the case.

"Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that," Trump said during an interview with The Associated Press.

The president likened the global outcry against Saudi Arabia to the controversy surrounding Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment January reminds us why courts matter — and the dangers of 'Trump judges' Planned Parenthood launches M campaign to back Democrats in 2020 MORE, who was accused of sexual assault during his confirmation process.

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"We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned," he said. "So we have to find out what happened."

Trump's latest comments are the furthest he has gone to defend the Saudi government from charges that it is responsible for the dissident journalist's fate.

The president earlier Tuesday spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and vouched for his claim that he has no knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi. But Trump said that the prince has agreed to "expand" an investigation into the incident.

Trump told the AP he hopes the Saudi investigation concludes in “less than a week.”

Khashoggi, a critic of Salman, has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say the journalist was killed and dismembered inside the compound.

After speaking to the Saudi king on Monday, Trump said it is possible that "rogue killers" were responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance.

The president said in the interview Tuesday that his comments were based on a "feeling" he got from the Saudi king and not a specific claim by Salman.

After meeting with Saudi leaders in Riyadh, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCountries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo Trump Jr.: If 'weaker' Republicans only call for certain witnesses, 'they don't deserve to be in office' House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE said they "strongly denied any knowledge of what took place" with Khashoggi but made a "serious commitment" to hold accountable anyone found to have been involved in the journalist's disappearance.

At least four suspects identified by Turkey in the Khashoggi case have ties to Mohammed, according to The New York Times, a factor that could undermine any Saudi attempt to pin the journalist's disappearance on rogue elements.

Trump's fiery comments are a sign he views the criticism of the Saudis as damaging to himself and his administration.

Trump picked Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first foreign trip as president and has formed a close partnership with Mohammed's government in the hopes of isolating Iran and forging a Middle East peace deal.

Trump's remarks, however, are likely to spark a backlash on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in both parties are pressuring the president to come down hard on Riyadh in response to Khashoggi's disappearance.

Some have called on Trump to suspend roughly $110 billion in arms deal with the kingdom or impose sanctions on Saudi officials deemed responsible. The president has balked at stopping the arms deals, saying it would hurt U.S. jobs.

Trump also said that Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSecurity for Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits cost local taxpayers million On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Senate approves Trump trade deal with Canada, Mexico | Senate Dems launch probe into Trump tax law regulations | Trump announces Fed nominees Senate Democrats launch investigation into Trump tax law regulations MORE still planned to travel to Saudi Arabia for an investment conference, but could change his plans based on the results of the investigation.

"I think we’ll also be guided by what other countries are doing" if the Saudis are implicated, Trump said.

— Updated 7:11 p.m.