Trump on Khashoggi killing: Saudi crown prince 'hates it more than I do'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE on Thursday continued to defend his response to Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month, asserting that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "hates" the situation "more than I do."

"I hate the crime and I hate what is done and I hate the cover-up. And I will tell you this, the crown prince hates it more than I do," Trump told reporters following a teleconference with members of the military for Thanksgiving.

While reports emerged last week that the CIA has concluded with a high degree of certainty that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's killing, Trump insisted Thursday that "the CIA points it both ways."

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"As I said, 'Maybe he did, maybe he didn't.' But I will say very strongly that it's a very important ally. And if we go by a certain standard we won't be able to have allies with almost any country," he said.

Trump earlier this week said the U.S. would maintain a "steadfast" relationship with Saudi Arabia despite the CIA having reportedly concluded that the crown prince had ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

Trump maintained Thursday that the CIA hasn’t concluded whether the crown prince ordered the killed and accused the press of “false reporting.”

“The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things. And pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t,” he said.

“They didn’t conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways. … Nobody’s concluded," he added. "I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to conclude that the crown prince did.”

Trump stressed that the Saudis "have vehemently denied" the crown prince's involvement in Khashoggi's death.

Asked who should be held accountable for Khashoggi's killing, Trump responded, “Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place.”

Khashoggi, who was a resident of Virginia and a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 after going there to obtain documents for his marriage to a Turkish woman. 

Turkish officials have said that a 15-member Saudi team killed Khashoggi and dismembered his body after he entered the consulate. Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people in connection to the dissident journalist's death, including former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who is thought to be close to the crown prince.

The Trump administration has placed sanctions on 17 Saudi individuals accused of being involved in the plot to kill Khashoggi, including Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince, and Mohammed al-Otaibi, who was in charge of the consulate.

But Trump hasn’t placed sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed or reduced weapon sales to the Saudis, despite calls from lawmakers in the U.S. to do so.

Trump said Thursday, as he often has in recent weeks, that it isn’t in U.S. interests to further sanction the kingdom. He claimed that the Saudis create “a tremendous number of jobs” by buying weapons from the U.S.

He also said that scaling back relations with Saudi Arabia could result in a global depression.

“If you want to see a global depression, all you have to do is lift the oil price 50 dollars a barrel, which could happen very quickly once we lose that relationship,” he said.

Updated at 11:13 a.m.