Trump touts Saudi King's denial in journalist's disappearance

Friday, 19 Oct, 2018

President Trump's suggestion that "rogue killers" may be responsible for Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance suggests he may let Saudi Arabia off the hook for another violation, said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi, a sharp critic of the Saudi Arabian government, was killed last week inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "Determining what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is something of great importance to the president", state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Monday as Pompeo prepared to take off from Washington. "We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment". Turkish officials have said he was killed and dismembered.

Several hours before the searchers arrived, journalists spotted a cleaning crew going inside the consulate. Trump said Monday that the alleged slaying could have been carried out by "rogue killers". The officials were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

"I've asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to immediately get on a plane, to Saudi Arabia, go to other places if necessary, which he probably will".

Saudi Arabia had earlier denied killing Khashoggi and denounced such assertions as "lies", saying he left the building shortly after entering.

France, Germany and Britain on Sunday have expressed concerns over the case, calling for "a credible investigation" into the incident. "And it sounds like he and also the crown prince [Mohammad bin Salman] had no knowledge".

The tone differed markedly from the statement released by members of the family on October 7, in which they accused the media of politicizing his disappearance and affirmed their trust in the Saudi government to resolve the case. He and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, have forged close ties. Saudi Arabia has denied the allegations.

Not only is Saudi Arabia a dominant player in global oil markets, it is also a major buyer of US arms and plays a key role in Washington's Middle East foreign policy, aiding anti-terrorism efforts and acting as a reliable bulwark against Iran.

"By leaking information on the case in a controlled manner, Turks have signaled their willingness to confront the Saudis if they have enough worldwide support, particularly from the West", said Gonul Tol, director of the Middle East Institute's Center for Turkish Studies in Washington. "He firmly denied that".

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, and Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman attempted to persuade the Saudis to push back the Future Investment Initiative in the country's capital of Riyadh, according to a report in The New York Times. Both reports cited anonymous people said to be familiar with the Saudi plans. "So far it's just the rumor, the rumor of a report coming out", he said. Permission apparently came after a late Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Saudi Arabia agreed last week to allow Turkish officials to conduct a search but insisted it would only be a superficial "visual" inspection.

Meanwhile, a joint Turkish-Saudi team began their first search of the Istanbul consulate.

The footage of cleaners prompted speculations and jokes that they were called in to the consulate to remove any remaining evidence from the crime scene. "This, I think, depends on the crown prince".

Speaking on Monday about the potential cost for Saudi Arabia, Trump only told the media that "the world is watching".