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Pompeo arrives in Riyadh as pressure intensifies on Saudis to explain Jamal Khashoggi mystery  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “totally denied any knowledge” of what happened when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing this month after visiting the consulate in Istanbul.

“Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate,” Trump tweeted. “He was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo …during the call, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter.”

Pompeo met with Saudi Arabian King Salman and the crown prince in Riyadh on Tuesday. 

“Answers will be forthcoming shortly,” Trump said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump compared the situation to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.

"I think we have to find out what happened first," he said. "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."

U.S. resident and Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished two weeks ago while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials said they have evidence Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic compound, but Saudi officials called the allegations "baseless."

Pompeo will fly to Ankara on Wednesday to meet with Turkish officials on the case, said Heather Nauert, the State Department's chief spokeswoman. 

Pompeo characterized his meetings with Saudi officials Tuesday as "direct and candid conversations."  

"During each of today’s meetings, the Saudi leadership strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul," Pompeo said. "My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia’s senior leaders or senior officials."

Pompeo did not address reports from CNN and The New York Times suggesting the Saudi government would soon release a report that Khashoggi was accidentally killed as a result of a planned rendition back to Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on those reports.

"The government of Saudi Arabia owes the Khashoggi family and the world a full and honest explanation of everything that happened to him," Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, said in a statement Tuesday. "The Saudi government can no longer remain silent, and it is essential that our own government and others push harder for the truth." 

Ryan supported the Khashoggi's family request for an independent, international investigation. 

Turkish police searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul overnight Monday and announced Tuesday that the Saudi consul’s home in Istanbul would be searched. A Turkish official told the Associated Press that the embassy search revealed information indicating that Khashoggi was killed there.  

In Riyadh, Pompeo held short meetings with Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir before sitting down with the crown prince, Saudi's de facto ruler, inside the royal court.

“We are strong and old allies," the prince said after greeting Pompeo, according to a pool report from journalists traveling with the secretary of state. "We face our challenges together – the past, the day of, tomorrow.” 

Nauert said that during Pompeo's meeting with the king, the secretary of state thanked Salman for "his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance."

A number of powerful U.S. executives said they pulled out of an investment summit in Riyadh later this month because of the case. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to attend the conference.

In Congress, lawmakers in both parties expressed concern about the Saudi government's alleged involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance. Some suggested U.S. arms sales to the regime should be halted if it's determined the journalist was killed inside the consulate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the United States should "sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia" and slammed the crown prince, known by his initials MBS, as a "toxic" figure.
"This guy is a wrecking ball," Graham said on Fox News Tuesday morning, alleging that the prince directed Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate. "This guy’s gotta go." Directing his remarks to Saudi Arabian officials, he said, "MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself."

Pompeo was dispatched to Saudi Arabia by Trump, who warned of "severe punishment" for the kingdom if it was involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Trump said Monday that the alleged slaying could have been carried out by "rogue killers."

Not only is Saudi Arabia a dominant player in global oil markets, it is also a major buyer of U.S. arms and plays a key role in Washington's Middle East foreign policy, aiding anti-terrorism efforts and acting as a reliable bulwark against Iran. 



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