Trump says it looks like Khashoggi is dead, threatens consequences
WASHINGTON, DC (AP):
United States President Donald Trump said yesterday that it "certainly looks" as though Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and he threatened "very severe" consequences if the Saudis are found to have murdered him.
As the US toughened its response to Khashoggi's disappearance, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulled out of a major Saudi investment conference yesterday amid global pressure. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that the kingdom should be given more time to investigate before the US lays any blame or considers action.
Trump, who has insisted that more facts must be known before making assumptions about Khashoggi, did not say on what he based his statement on the writer's demise two weeks ago. He commented as he left Joint Base Andrews for a political trip to Montana.
Asked if Khashoggi was dead, he said, "It certainly looks that way. ... Very sad."
While Turkish officials have accused Saudi Arabia of the murder in Istanbul of Khashoggi, a US-based writer who has been critical of Saudi leaders, Trump has cautioned against a rush to judgment against an important Mideast ally. And Pompeo, just back from talks with Saudi and Turkish leaders, said earlier on Thursday that the US needed more facts before deciding "how, or if" to respond.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced, "We have decided I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia." The Saudis had hoped to use the forum, billed as "Davos in the Desert", to boost their global image, but a number of European finance ministers and many top business executives have pulled out as international pressure on Riyadh has intensified over Khashoggi.
Turkish reports say that Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate by members of an assassination squad with ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis have dismissed those reports as baseless but have yet to explain what happened to Khashoggi, who was seen on video entering the consulate but has not been seen since.