The Slatest

Trump: I’m Going To Have A “Long Talk” About What Happened to Khashoggi. (By the Way, Saudi Arabia Is Buying Lots of Weapons.)

President Trump talking to reporters and surrounded by cameras in the Oval Office in the White House.
U.S. President Donald Trump (C) talks to journalists while hosting workers and members of his cabinet for a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House October 17, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is doing his best to find out from Saudi Arabia what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi but made sure to point out that Saudi Arabia buys a lot of weapons from the U.S. and that he’s not sure if there’s really video or audio evidence of his murder in the Saudi consultate in Istanbul two weeks ago.

Pompeo, Trump said, “spent a lot of time with the Crown Prince, and he’s going to have a full report. … I want to find out what happened and where is the fault. … We are going to have a long talk.” (Pompeo said Saudi officials “didn’t want” to talk about “the facts” of whether Khashoggi was alive or not and that he was waiting for the results of an investigation.)

Trump’s view on the Khashoggi disappearance and increasingly detailed leaks from Turkey about his alleged brutal murder at the hands of Saudis close to the Crown Prince has been scattered. The president has veered from saying Khashoggi had probably been killed; to, after speaking with King Salman, speculating that “rogue killers” were responsible; to comparing Saudi Arabia to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent”)—all the while repeating frequently that Saudi Arabia insists it’s not responsible ("[Bin Salman] said very strongly that he and his father knew nothing”) and that the kingdom is scheduled to buy a lot of weaponry from the U.S.

When a reporter asked why Trump hasn’t sent the FBI to Turkey to investigate, Trump pointed out, “He wasn’t a citizen of this country for one thing.”

Meanwhile, Turkish officials and media outlets have reported that several of the 15 Saudis who traveled to Istanbul on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance are close (sometimes literally) to Crown Prince bin Salman. A “senior Turkish official” told the New York Times that its government has audio of Khashoggi’s murder revealing that Saudis “severed his fingers and later beheaded and dismembered him.” Trump said about any possible audio evidence Wednesday, “We have asked for it if it exists” and “We don’t know if it exists yet,” while admitting that it “probably does.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been a bit more aggressive but are still buying the Trump administration’s current Wait until there’s been a credible investigation line.