President Donald Trump said Monday he had spoken to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and that he had personally denied any knowledge of the fate of disappeared journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He also said he would send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia for high-level discussions with the King.
Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi regime, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials have said they believe he was then murdered inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia denies the allegation.
“Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened “to our Saudi Arabian citizen.”,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!”
Saudi Arabia has come under increasing pressure to explain what happened to Khashoggi.
Many international companies and high-profile individuals have pulled pulling out of an investment conference scheduled for this week in Saudi Arabia in protest. Trump had earlier said that the U.S. would inflict “severe punishment” on Saudi Arabia if it was found to have been complicit in Khashoggi’s presumed murder, but he does not yet support halting lucrative arms deals between the two countries. Saudi Arabia responded to those claims and others by saying it would punish any retaliation with a “stronger” response.
“As of this moment, they deny it, and they deny it vehemently,” Trump said in an interview before the call with King Salman on Monday. “Could it be them? Yes,” he said.