On Monday, President Donald Trump appeared one step closer to accepting the denials of the Saudi Arabian government that it was behind the disappearance and alleged killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suggesting that “rogue killers” may instead be responsible.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said that during a phone conversation Monday morning, King Salman, the Saudi monarch, had repeatedly denied having any information about Khashoggi’s disappearance. “I asked and he firmly denied that,” Trump said. He continued, “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn’t really know, maybe—I don’t want to get into his mind—but it sounded to me like it could have been rogue killers, who knows?”
Trump also expressly stated that Khashoggi, who fled the kingdom for the US out of fear of political retribution, was, in fact, a Saudi Arabian citizen. Last week, the president appeared to openly question whether Khashoggi was a US citizen, implying that if he wasn’t, his disappearance was perhaps not the US’s issue.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 15, 2018
Trump’s striking defense of the Saudi Arabian government comes as Turkish officials concluded that at the direction of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabian agents on October 2 lured Khashoogi to the the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and subsequently killed him.
Despite his apparent willingness to accept the Saudi Arabian government’s word, Trump told reporters that he was sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the Saudi King and discuss the growing diplomatic crisis.