WASHINGTON — The cover-up surrounding the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “the worst in history,” according to President Donald Trump.
“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up. They had the worst cover-up ever.”
On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to retrieve documents for his upcoming wedding while his fiancee waited outside.
After initially denying knowledge of the disappearance, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry claimed on Friday that Khashoggi was killed inside by rogue actors.
Three top intelligence officials have been fired: General Hamed Al-Mehmad, general director of security and protection; Major General Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Shaya, the assistant head of intelligence; and Major General Al Tayyar Mohammed Bin Saleh Al Rumaij, assistant chief of intelligence.
According to the Saudis, an investigation showed an attempt to interrogate Khashoggi escalated and broke out into a fight, which ultimately lead to the journalist being killed.
The explanation given by Saudi leaders has been met with skepticism across the globe.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan countered the Saudis’ narrative on Tuesday.
“We have strong signs that this murder did not stem from a momentary incident, but [was] rather a planned operation,” Erdogan said during an address before Turkey’s parliament.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to say Tuesday if the administration believes Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman was tied to either the murder or the initial cover-up.
“We’re learning the facts,” Pompeo said during a briefing at the State Department. “As facts unfold as we continue to develop our understanding of the individuals that were responsible for this, who not only executed it but lead and were involved and were connected to it, the world should know that we intend to hold those individuals accountable when we develop that fact set.”
While Trump has said that he is dismayed by Khashoggi’s death, the president has been wary of waging too aggressive of a response against Saudi Arabia, arguing that it could hinder the U.S. economy.