Trump spoke hours after Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, dismissed Saudi efforts to blame Khashoggi’s death on rogue operatives.
Erdogan urged Riyadh to search “from top to bottom” to uncover those behind Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, an incident that has sparked global outrage and strained relations between Riyadh and Washington.
For Saudi Arabia’s allies, the question will be whether they believe that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability.
“There should have never been an execution or a cover-up, because it should have never happened,” Trump told reporters. He said he had spoken on Monday (October 22) with the crown prince who denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s killing.
“The cover-up was horrible. The execution was horrible, but there should have never been an execution or a cover-up because it should’ve never happened,” he said.
Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, was a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist.
Trump’s comments in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and mentioning possible economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks highlighting the country’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.
Trump did not give his views on who was ultimately responsible. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had identified some of the Saudi government and security officials it believed were involved in Khashoggi’s murder and would take appropriate actions including revoking U.S. visas.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the U.S. measures.