US President Donald Trump reportedly bragged of protecting Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from congressional scrutiny after the brutal assassination of the American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The information has been obtained from the upcoming book "Rage", written by veteran reporter Bob Woodward, reports Business Insider.
Woodward conducted 18 wide-ranging interviews with the president for the book, as well as interviews with multiple senior White House officials and former administration officials. Still, Trump last month slammed the book as "a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been."
Woodward wrote that Trump called him on January 22 shortly after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During the conversation, Woodward pressed the president about Khashoggi's gruesome murder.
Khashoggi, 59, a longtime Washington Post columnist known for his criticism of the Saudi kingdom, was assassinated and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after going there to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage.
The CIA concluded a little over a month later that Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, had personally ordered Khashoggi's murder.
"The people at the Post are upset about the Khashoggi killing," Woodward told Trump on January 22, his book says. "That is one of the most gruesome things. You yourself have said."
"Yeah, but Iran is killing 36 people a day, so —" Trump began, before Woodward redirected the conversation and continued to press Trump about MBS's role in ordering Khashoggi's killing.
"I saved his ass," Trump had said amid the US outcry following Khashoggi's murder, the book says. "I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop."
The White House did not offer a comment when contacted by Insider.
When a reporter pressed Trump on Thursday about what the president meant when he said he'd "saved" the Saudi leader's "ass," Trump replied: "You'll have to figure that out yourself."
During his January 22 conversation with Woodward, the president said: "Well, I understand what you're saying, and I've gotten involved very much. I know everything about the whole situation."
Trump added that Saudi Arabia spent billions of dollars on US products. He also stressed MBS's claim that he's innocent, though US intelligence and other foreign intelligence agencies have concluded otherwise.
"He will always say that he didn't do it," Trump said of MBS. "He says that to everybody, and frankly I'm happy that he says that. But he will say that to you, he will say that to Congress, and he will say that to everybody. He's never said he did it."
"Do you believe that he did it?" Woodward asked.
"No, he says that he didn't do it," Trump replied.
"I know, but do you really believe —" Woodward said before Trump cut him off.
"He says very strongly that he didn't do it," Trump said. "Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time."
He added: "And you know, they're in the Middle East. You know, they're big. Because of their religious monuments, you know, they have the real power. They have the oil, but they also have the great monuments for religion. You know that, right? For that religion.
"They wouldn't last a week if we're not there, and they know it," he said.
Trump repeatedly used executive power to block or bypass congressional efforts to cut ties with Riyadh after Khashoggi's murder.
Last year, he vetoed a bipartisan bill to end US support for the Saudis in Yemen. The war in Yemen has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis, and the Saudi-led coalition has killed civilians using US-made bombs.
The president also bypassed Congress to push through an arms sale worth roughly $8 billion to the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, and he later vetoed several resolutions blocking the sale.
More recently, Trump has moved to circumvent a decades-old arms-control pact in order to sell weaponized drones to the Saudis and to other countries in the region, sparking backlash from Democrats and Republicans in Congress.