United States President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he had spoken to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman about the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to Trump, Salman told him he knew nothing about what happened at the consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi went missing on October 2.
“He was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter,” Trump said on Twitter. “Answers will be forthcoming shortly.”
Later in the day, Trump compared the case of Khashoggi to the sexual assault charges against Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh. “I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump told AP. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Pompeo was “candid and direct” with the Saudi leaders in his meeting. “We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together,” Salman told Pompeo. “Absolutely,” Pompeo replied.
“We had direct and candid conversations,” Pompeo told reporters according to CNN. “I emphasised the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation, and the Saudi leadership pledged to deliver precisely on that.” The US secretary of state will travel to Ankara on Wednesday to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Khashoggi family has demanded that an impartial and independent international commission be formed to investigate his death. “The strong moral and legal responsibility which our father instilled in us obliges us to call for the establishment of an independent and impartial international commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death,” they said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Turkish officials on Tuesday provided The Washington Post with scans of passports which they say were carried by seven men who were part of a team that allegedly murdered Khashoggi. Turkey has alleged that a 15-member team dispatched from Saudi Arabia was responsible for the incident.