Saudi consul sacked after ‘journalist is chopped up’

Larry Hoffman
October 20, 2018

United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied covering up for ally Saudi Arabia in the suspected murder of a critical journalist and said that he should know what happened to Jamal Khashoggi within days.

However, when asked whether the Saudi side had said that Khashoggi is alive or dead, Pompeo said, "I don't want to talk about any of the facts", adding that "I'm waiting for the investigation to be completed".

"I don't like stopping massive amounts of money that is being poured into our country", Trump said last week.

"If I were the State Department's spokesperson, on an official trip to learn more about the dark, dubious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a US resident, I probably would have skipped the tourist-in-Riyadh photos".

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu before their talks in Ankara, Turkey, on Wednesday.

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are frequently in contact, and their relationship played a role in Riyadh being the unlikely first stop on the new American president's maiden worldwide trip in 2017.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump compared the case of Khashoggi, who Turkish officials have said was murdered in the Saudis' Istanbul consulate, to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

Several U.S. media outlets reported on Monday that the Saudi side was preparing a report that Khashoggi's death was a result of a botched interrogation.

But Trump has slow-pedalled on the possibility of action against Saudi Arabia, which he has repeatedly praised as a historic customer for the USA weapons industry, at one point suggesting "rogue killers" could be to blame for Khashoggi's disappearance.

A US resident, Khashoggi vanished during a visit to the consulate on 2 October to collect marriage documents.

The New York Times reported that a suspect identified by Turkey was a frequent companion of the prince's. As a contributor to the Washington Post, he has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. "And we're going to determine that".

On a day when foreign policy experts worldwide were nearly uniformly accusing Saudi Arabia's government of murdering a prominent dissident, President Donald Trump spoke to the Saudi king, then offered an alternative theory: "Rogue killers" may be to blame.

"Shut up if you want to live when you return to [Saudi] Arabia", came the response from an unknown Saudi official.

Officials in Turkey, where Pompeo heads on Wednesday, say that the Saudis killed Khashoggi inside the consulate.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was delaying a decision on whether to go through with a planned visit to Saudi Arabia meant to help fix strained relations. He also reportedly was close to the Saudi crown prince, and has been photographed near him on several worldwide trips.

While, according to CNN, Saudi Arabia was planning to release a report saying that Khashoggi had died during an interrogation gone wrong, these recordings, according to both Middle East Eye and the Wall Street Journal, show no evidence of an interrogation. The Saudi government has denied it.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to attend an investment conference in Riyadh next week known as "Davos in the desert." even as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Societe Generale CEO Frederic Oudea joined a growing list of executives who have pulled out.

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