President Trump inadvertently "encouraged" Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's crown prince, to crack down on dissidents like missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to former CIA Director John Brennan.
"The strength of the U.S.-Saudi relationship goes back many, many years, but I think in particular MBS has been emboldened," Brennan said Sunday during an interview with NBC News' "Meet the Press," referring to the presumptive heir to the kingdom's throne. "He is a very bright, ambitious, aggressive individual, and clearly is trying to make changes in Saudi Arabia. But his relationship with the White House, with Donald Trump, as well as with Jared Kushner, I think probably gave him increased confidence to do some of these things in a more aggressive way."
[Opinion: US failed to push Saudi Arabia on previous abuses; now for the consequences]
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and detractor of the Saudi royal court, has not been seen since he visited the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2. The U.S. resident is feared dead following the emergence of security camera footage showing a group of 15 Saudis, described as an assassination squad, arriving at the consulate at about the same time. The Saudi government has denied any involvement.
The Washington Post reported last week that Khashoggi's disappearance comes after the Saudi crown prince, who enjoys a close relationship with presidential adviser and son-in-law Kushner, allegedly ordered that the journalist be lured from his home in Virginia so he could be detained in his home country.
Brennan added Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed's behavior belonged in the "authoritarian autocratic camp" similar to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines.
"I also think Donald Trump's siding up to authoritarian leaders around the globe — the Kim Jong Uns, the Dutertes, and others. Donald Trump's condemnation of the press that's critical of him, Donald Trump's continued dishonesty and denials of reality, even when all facts point against it, I think that has encouraged MBS to go along this road," Brennan said.