President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied covering up for ally Saudi Arabia in the suspected murder of a critical journalist and said that he expects to learn the truth about Jamal Khashoggi’s fate within days.
Trump’s comments followed the publication in pro-government Turkish media of allegations purporting to confirm that Khashoggi was not only murdered by Saudi agents in their consulate in Istanbul, but tortured and dismembered.
“No, not at all, I just want to find out what’s happening,” Trump told reporters in the White House when asked if his consistently cautious approach to the scandal amounts to a cover-up. “I’m not giving cover at all.”
The president said he would get a “full report” from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — whom he is to meet at 10:00 am (1400 GMT) on Thursday — after the diplomat’s return from meetings with Saudi and Turkish leaders, allowing him to “assess what really happened.”
“We will probably know that by the end of the week,” Trump said.
The US president has been on the defensive ever since Khashoggi — a US resident and Washington Post contributor who had been critical of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — vanished on October 2 after visiting the Istanbul consulate.
The Post published a column from Khashoggi on Wednesday in which he wrote of the important role a free press could play in the Arab world — a piece the newspaper admitted appears to be his last.
According to the latest reports, the Saudi journalist was assassinated by a squad that included agents tied to Prince Mohammed, a son of King Salman and a lynchpin in the trend toward ever-tightening relations with Trump’s White House.