Jamal Khashoggi

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File

Trump: It 'Certainly Looks' Like Jamal Khashoggi Is Dead

October 18, 2018 - 7:40 am
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that it "certainly looks" as though missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead.

As to the possible consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said, “It’ll have to be very severe; I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff, but we’ll see what happens.”

Trump did not say Thursday what he based his conclusion on, and CBS News State Department Reporter Kylie Atwood noted that it remains unknown why Trump is now saying it is likely that Khashoggi is dead.

“So the question is, you know, what is leading the president to make this pronouncement now that it certainly looks like journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and the follow-up question, of course, is, you know, he’s now pronouncing very severe consequences for the Saudis if they are proven to be behind this alleged murder, but he’s taken off certain possible consequences that could be on the table, including U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia,” Atwood said.

Trump has previously warned that the kingdom will face "severe punishment" from the U.S. if it is determined that Saudi Arabia was responsible for Khashoggi's death.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is pulling out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, as the U.S. awaits an answer from the Saudis as to just what happened to Khashoggi.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he told Saudi Arabia's rulers that the U.S. takes "very seriously" the Khashoggi’s disappearance and will await the outcome of investigations by the kingdom and Turkey before deciding how the U.S. will respond.

Pompeo briefed Trump at the White House earlier Thursday on his talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Pompeo said the Saudis assured him they will conduct a "complete, thorough" investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance.

Human rights investigations are also calling for the United Nations to investigate.

“In a very unusual move, you heard today at the UN from three major human rights organizations – the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and Reporters Without Borders. So it was actually four that called for an investigation from the UN that would be called by a member state – in this case Turkey – and they’ve done it before with Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and other events, so the idea here is a truly independent investigation,”  said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk.

Other businesses and interests are also pulling out of Saudi Arabia.

“We’ve seen Silicon Valley; major global leaders and businesspeople like Richard Branson pulling out. So you’re seeing a basic shunning of Saudi Arabia, and they have to determine what they’re going to do – not only about the evidence to admit that he was in fact killed there, but also who determined it; who directed it,” Falk said.

Meanwhile Thursday, images published Thursday by a pro-government Turkish newspaper indicated that a man who previously traveled with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's entourage to the United States entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul just Khashoggi vanished there.

The Sabah newspaper's report showed the man also later outside the Saudi consul general's home, checking out of a Turkish hotel as a large suitcase stood by his side, and leaving Turkey on Oct. 2.

The report came as Turkish crime-scene investigators finished an overnight search of both the consul general's residence and a second search of the consulate itself amid Ankara's fears that Saudi authorities had Khashoggi killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic mission in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia, which initially called the allegations "baseless," has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press over recent days, including on Thursday.

The Sabah report showed the man walking past police barricades at the consulate at 9:55 a.m. with several men trailing behind him. Khashoggi arrived at the consulate several hours later at 1:14 p.m., then disappeared while his fiancée waited outside for him.

A report Wednesday by the pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak, citing what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi's slaying, said a Saudi team immediately accosted the 60-year-old journalist after he entered the consulate, cutting off his fingers and later decapitating him.

Previously leaked surveillance footage showed consular vehicles moving from the consulate to the consul general's official residence, some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away, a little under two hours after Khashoggi walked inside. The Sabah newspaper showed an image of the man at 4:53 p.m. at the consul's home, then at 5:15 p.m. checking out of a hotel. He later cleared airport security at 5:58 p.m.

Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi's case, adding to the pressure on the kingdom.

The AP could not immediately verify the man's identity, though he's one of the individuals previously identified by Turkish authorities as being involved in the 15-man Saudi team that targeted Khashoggi.

Images shot by the Houston Chronicle and later distributed by the AP show the same man was in Prince Mohammed's entourage when he visited a Houston subdivision in April to see rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey. The same man wore lapel pins, including one of the flags of Saudi Arabia and America intertwined, that other bodyguards accompanying Prince Mohammed wore on the trip.

The three-week trip across the U.S. saw Prince Mohammed meet with business leaders and celebrities, including Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, who now owns the Post.

The searches and the leaks in Turkish media have ensured the world's attention remains focused on what happened to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who went into a self-imposed exile in the United States over the rise of Prince Mohammed. It also put further strains on the relationship between the kingdom, the world's largest oil exporter, and its main security guarantor, the U.S., as tensions with Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East remain high.

Pompeo returned home Wednesday after a fact-finding visit to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“When he left Istanbul yesterday, Mike Pompeo told reporters that he’s relying on the Saudis to tell him what happened in an investigation that has really just recently begun, and he said that it’s reasonable to give the Saudis a handful of days more to complete that investigation, so the president today is expected to meet and get a full report from Secretary of State Pompeo, who yesterday told reporter that he’s still waiting for all the facts to be delivered to him by the Saudis, investigating the alleged actions of the Saudis,” said CBS News White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy.

President Trump, who initially came out hard on the Saudis over the disappearance but since has backed off, said Wednesday that the U.S. wanted Turkey to turn over any audio or video recording it had of Khashoggi's alleged killing "if it exists."

Former Vice President Joe Biden was sharply critical of President Trump’s approach to the Khashoggi situation.

“Either he doesn’t know what he’s doing, or he has an absolutely convoluted notion of what allows America to lead the world,” Biden said.

Around Washington, both Republicans and Democrats are of the position that the U.S. should hold the line on human rights. But Trump has other concerns about the country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“I asked the president in the Oval Office yesterday about this concern that he’s giving cover to the Saudis. He denied that. He says he’s not giving cover at all,” Portnoy said. “But he also stresses Saudi Arabia’s importance as a strategic ally, as a bulwark against Iran, and as a trading partner – both in terms of oil, and in the most recent case, arms sales. He keeps talking about that $100 billion order that’ll benefit corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Post published what it described as Khashoggi's last column in honor of the missing journalist.

In it, Khashoggi pointed to the muted international response to ongoing abuses against journalists by governments in the Middle East.

"As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate," Khashoggi wrote. He added: "The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power."

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)