Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a pop-up presser on the White House lawn Thursday about the results of his trip to Turkey and Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
“We made it clear to them we take this matter with respect to Mr. Khashoggi very seriously,” Pompeo said of his talk with the Saudi royal family. “They made clear to me they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi.”
Evidence is piling up that Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman authorized the murder of Khashoggi in that country’s consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was last seen going into the Saudi government building more than two weeks ago to get papers he needed to marry. The Saudi royal family initially insisted Khashoggi left the building not long thereafter.
“They also have assured me they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and do so in a timely fashion and that the report itself will be transparent,” Pompeo told reporters, moments before Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced he would not participate in next week’s MBS-hosted “Davos in the Desert” conference.
“I told the President this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that, so we too have complete understanding of the facts surrounding that, at which point we can make a decision if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi,” Pompeo told reporters.
Pompeo cautioned it is important to remember that “We have a long, since 1932, strategic relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They continue to be an important counter-terrorism partner…We need to be mindful of that as well.”
Meanwhile, Turkey, which has been the source of much of the damning evidence against the Saudis in Khashoggi’s disappearance, is conducting its own investigation, results of which Pompeo said would be shared with the U.S. and the Saudis.
“We do believe, between these two efforts, a complete picture will merge for what actually transpired here.”
When one reporter asked why the Saudi rulers should be trusted to investigate themselves, Pompeo said the U.S. would get the chance to determine the credibility of their probe.
Plus, he said, Crown Prince MBS had made a “personal commitment” to Donald Trump the night before last. So there’s that.
“There are lots of stories out there about what happened,” Pompeo said dismissively. “We’re just going to allow the process to move forward, the facts to unfold and, as we make determination for ourselves, the United States will decide what the appropriate response will be.”