An interesting side story coming out of Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia is whether the president actually confronted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS) about the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden gave a bold account of standing up to the Saudi leader and virtually accusing him of murder.
“With respect to the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think about it now,” Biden said at a press conference on Friday.
“He [MBS] basically said that he was not personally responsible for it. I indicated that he was, and he said he was not personally responsible for it and he took action against those who were responsible,” the president added.
Can you really see Joe Biden confronting anyone — much less the Saudi crown prince — about a murder?
This is a guy who continually bragged during the campaign about being able to get along with Republicans, about building consensus rather than confrontation. And we’re to believe he stood in front of the Saudi crown prince and called him a liar and a murderer?
The following day, however, as Biden was leaving Saudi Arabia, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News’ Alex Hogan Biden never addressed Khashoggi’s murder during the visit.
“I didn’t hear that particular phrase,” al-Jubeir said. “The President mentioned that the US is committed to human rights because since the founding fathers wrote the constitution and he also made the point that American presidents — this is part of the agenda of every American president.”
The Saudi Foreign Minister just called the President of the United States a liar. What say you to that, Joe?
After spending several days in the Middle East, Biden landed outside of the White House and answered a few questions from reporters, including one about a recent controversial remark from Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister.
“The Saudi Foreign Minister said he didn’t hear you accuse the Crown Prince of Khashoggi’s murder. Is he telling the truth?” the reporter asked.
“No,” Biden swiftly said, before brushing off another reporter who asked about the fist-bump fiasco. “Why don’t you talk about something that matters?” the president added.
It’s not entirely unbelievable that it’s Biden who is lying and not the Saudi foreign minister. But these meetings between foreign leaders are as scripted as a Broadway musical. Both sides know exactly what the other is going to say so there are no nasty surprises. MBS knew that Biden was going to bring up Khashoggi’s murder, and Biden knew that MBS was going to counter with Abu Ghraib.
The Saudi foreign minister may have been making a point about the Saudi reaction to Biden’s charges more than the reality of not hearing the president make the accusation.