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Thomas Barrack, Trump Confidant, Apologizes for Remarks Defending Saudis Over Killing

Category: Political News,Politics

Thomas J. Barrack, a confidant of President Trump who served as chairman of his inaugural committee, apologized on Wednesday for statements he made defending Saudi Arabia after the killing of the journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Barrack suggested at a conference on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi that the United States was not in a position to lecture other countries.

“Whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse,” Mr. Barrack said at the event, responding to a question from Becky Anderson of CNN about the effect that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey had had on the Saudis’ reputation.

Mr. Barrack, a financier who has long done business in the Middle East, said that “atrocities” in all countries “are dictated by the rule of law.” Referring to the Saudi crown prince, the de facto ruler of the country and a close ally of the Trump White House, Mr. Barrack added, “For us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves into 2030, I think is a mistake.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Barrack said: “The killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was atrocious and is inexcusable. I apologize for not making this clear in my comments earlier this week.”

The initial remarks from Mr. Barrack, which were reported by Gulf News, caused an outcry. Mr. Trump has condemned the killing but has declined to accept the findings by intelligence agencies about the complicity of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and has shown little interest in determining who is responsible.

The crown prince has sought to cast himself as a force for change and modernization even as he has cracked down on opponents.

In his statement on Wednesday, Mr. Barrack did not discuss the prince. Instead, he said: “I feel strongly that the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom. Having spent over 40 years in the region I can attest that the rule of law and monarchies across the Middle East are confusing to the West and support for change and rule of law is essential as the agony and mistakes of great change take place.”

“I have always believed and continue to believe that the United States is the greatest country in the world, but our history and our policies in the Middle East have been confusing at times,” he continued. “I believe that as a nation we do constantly work to lead by example, and I believe that we still do. I apologize for not making it clear at the time that I consider the killing reprehensible.”

At the conference in the United Arab Emirates, the Milken Institute MENA Summit, Mr. Barrack said that the West had the same trouble deciphering what had taken place with Mr. Khashoggi’s death that it has had for many generations.

“So, the West is confused, it doesn’t understand the rule of law in the kingdom, it doesn’t understand what succession in the kingdom is, it doesn’t understand how there can be a dilemma with a population that has 60 percent of people under the age of 20,” he said.

He later added that the West had always been confused about the Middle East.

“The corrupt hand of the West has been the primary instigator in the kingdom, and in the resource curse across the region forever,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee has been under investigation by federal prosecutors, who are focusing on whether people from Middle Eastern nations used straw donors to hide donations. Mr. Barrack has denied being involved in any such activity.


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