Trump denies covering for Saudis over Khashoggi disappearance

Trump denies covering for Saudis over Khashoggi disappearance

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President Donald Trump arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 20 2017. During his visit to the nation, he met with leaders from more than 50 Muslim-majority countries. He encouraged Muslim allies to take the lead in combating extremism. He blamed Iran for instability in the Middle East. (Photo: @realDonaldTrump/ Twitter)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump denied Wednesday that his administration was giving Saudi Arabia cover over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I just want to find out what’s happening. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is going to be back probably late tonight or early tomorrow morning … He’s going to have a full report,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “I’m not giving cover at all.”

Pompeo met with Turkish leaders Wednesday to discuss the disappearance of Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post.

The meetings came one day after Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to retrieve documents for his upcoming wedding while his fiancee waited outside.

There is no evidence that he exited the building and Turkish officials have concluded that Khashoggi was likely killed once inside.

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared on Oct. 2, wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post. (Alfaghi for Arabic Wikipedia)

Multiple outlets have reported that Saudi Arabia could release a report concluding that Khashoggi was killed in a botched attempt to interrogate and abduct the columnist.

Trump has been evasive when it comes to whether or not he believes that Khashoggi was killed on behalf of the Saudi government, but has repeatedly pointed to denials from high-level Saudi leaders.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Trump compared the suspicion surrounding Saudi Arabia to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

“I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump said. “You know, here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that.”

Kavanaugh faced multiple allegations of sexual assault and sexually inappropriate behavior while a nominee, charges that he vehemently denied. The Senate confirmed his nomination on Oct. 6 and he was sworn in that day.

In a tweet on Monday the president refuted suggestions that he has financial interests in Saudi Arabia, calling such claims “fake news.” However, during a 2015 campaign rally he said he loved Saudi Arabia and bragged about Saudis spending millions of dollars buying apartments from him.

Trump has previously said that the U.S. will hold Saudi Arabia accountable if it is determined that they were behind Khashoggi’s death, but has ruled out sanctions or limiting arms sales on the grounds that such moves will hurt the U.S. economy.

The president’s latest comments come shortly after a Turkish paper with close ties to President Recep Erdogan reported that there is an audio recording of Khashoggi being killed.

Trump said that the U.S. has asked for the tape, but is not sure if it exists.

He noted that it “probably does.”

Pompeo has also not heard the tape, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.

Trump said that the U.S. will likely have an understanding over what happened to the reporter, who is a permanent resident in Virginia, “by the end of the week.”

The president declined to say if he has asked for the FBI to step in.

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