WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that “rogue killers” could be behind the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
Trump told reporters on Monday that he had spoken by telephone with Saudi King Salman for 20 minutes and the monarch denied having any information about Khashoggi’s whereabouts or what happened to him.
“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump said as he left the White House en route to Florida and Georgia to view damage from Hurricane Michael.
“I don’t want to get into (Salman’s) mind ... (but) it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”
Khashoggi had been working as a journalist for The Washington Post and, according to his relatives and friends, he was presumably murdered inside the consulate.
King Salman told Trump that Riyadh is working with Turkish authorities to get to the bottom of what happened to the journalist – a longtime critic of the Saudi government who distanced himself from the monarchy when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ascended to a position of power within the oil-rich country – according to what the US leader said.
“All I can do is report what he told me,” Trump told reporters, adding that Salman’s “denial to me could not have been stronger,” and he confirmed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel on Monday to Riyadh to meet with the king and discuss the journalist’s disappearance
Trump spoke last week with top Saudi officials and Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials telephoned Prince Mohammed.
On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee, who waited for him outside the building.
Since then, however, there has been no news as to Khashoggi’s whereabouts and friends of the journalist say that he was surely murdered and that his body was dismembered, packed into suitcases and removed from the consulate, but the Turkish government has not officially commented on those accusations and Riyadh has denied them.
The Washington Post reported that the Turkish government told US authorities that it has video and audio recordings proving that the journalist was murdered in the consulate.