Trump Criticizes Saudi King Censure 10/17 06:38
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump criticized rapidly mounting global
condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the mystery of missing journalist Jamal
Khashoggi, warning of a rush to judgment and echoing the Saudis' request for
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Trump compared the
case of Khashoggi, who Turkish officials have said was murdered in the Saudis'
Istanbul consulate, 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," Trump 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."
Trump's remarks were his most robust defense yet of the Saudis, a U.S. ally
he has made central to his Mideast agenda. They put the president at odds with
other key allies and with some leaders in his Republican Party who have
condemned the Saudi leadership for what they say is an obvious role in the
case. Trump appeared willing to resist the pressure to follow suit, accepting
Saudi denials and their pledge to investigate.
The Oval Office interview came not long after Trump spoke Tuesday with Saudi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He spoke by phone a day earlier with King
Salman, and he said both deny any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi.
After speaking with the king, Trump floated the idea that "rogue killers"
may have been responsible for the disappearance. The president told the AP on
Tuesday that that description was informed by his "feeling" from his
conversation with Salman and that the king did not use the term.
In Turkey earlier Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the AP that
police investigators searching the Saudi Consulate had found evidence that
Khashoggi was killed there.
Also Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the king and crown
prince in Riyadh and said the Saudis had already started a "serious and
credible investigation" and seemed to suggest it could lead to people within
the kingdom. The secretary of state noted that the Saudi leaders, while denying
knowledge of anything that occurred inside the consulate, had committed to
accountability "including for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders or senior
Pompeo was heading next to Turkey, where officials have accused the Saudis
of using a 15-member team to kill Khashoggi inside the consulate.
Trump said he hoped the Saudis' own investigation of Khashoggi's
disappearance would be concluded in "less than a week."
In the meantime, there were signs at home that Trump's party was growing
uncomfortable with his willingness to defend the Saudis.
In an interview with Fox News, a prominent Trump ally in the Senate called
on Saudi Arabia to reject the crown prince, known as MBS, who rose to power
last year and has aggressively sought to soften the kingdom's image abroad and
attract foreign investment.
"This guy has got to go," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,
turning to speak to the camera. "Saudi Arabia, if you're listening, there are a
lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who was also a resident of the United States, has
been a contributor to The Washington Post and a critic of Saudi leaders,
especially Crown Prince Mohammed.
International leaders and business executives are severing or rethinking
ties to the Saudi government after Khashoggi's high-profile disappearance.
Trump has resisted any action, pointing to huge U.S. weapons deals pending with
Saudi Arabia and saying that sanctions could end up hurting the American
He said it was too early to say whether he endorsed other countries'
actions. "I have to find out what happened," he said. But his complaint about
"guilty until proven innocent" and comparison to the Kavanaugh situation
suggested he was giving the Saudis more leeway than other allies.
Khashoggi went to the consulate on Oct. 2 to get documents for his upcoming
marriage to a Turkish woman while his fiancee waited outside. She and Turkish
authorities say he never emerged and he has not been heard from since.
Khashoggi, 59, had been living in the U.S. for a year in self-imposed exile
and writing columns for the opinion section of the Post.
Trump said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's trip to attend a Saudi
investment conference is still on but could be canceled by Friday depending on
what the investigation finds.
"I think we'll also be guided by what other countries are doing," he said.