Trump calls Khashoggi murder 'worst cover-up in history'
Published : 24 Oct 2018, 12:18:01
US President Donald Trump has called Saudi Arabia's response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi "the worst cover-up ever".
He added that whoever organised the plot "should be in big trouble".
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, shortly afterwards, that the US "will punish those responsible" and is revoking visas of 21 identified suspects.
The US has faced pressure to toughen its stance on Saudi Arabia, a key ally.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr Trump said: "They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups."
"Whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble."
The Saudi kingdom has provided conflicting accounts of what happened to Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor. After weeks of maintaining he was still alive, the authorities now say the 59-year-old was murdered in a rogue operation after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
What has Trump said?
Mr Trump's criticisms of Saudi officials are his strongest so far, but he has continued to highlight the kingdom's importance as a US ally.
In a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal published late on Tuesday, Mr Trump addressed the possible involvement of senior Saudi royals in the killing and said he did not believe King Salman had prior knowledge of the crime.
When asked about the possible role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the president replied: "Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him."
He said he had questioned the crown prince about Khashoggi's death, and been told he did not know about the operation when it was being planned.
Asked if he believed the royal family's denial of any involvement in the killing, Mr Trump gave a long pause before saying: "I want to believe them, I really want to believe them," the newspaper said.
Mr Trump also said US intelligence officials, including CIA director Gina Haspel, were returning from Turkey and Saudi Arabia with information about the case.
What will the US do next?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington that he and the president were "not happy with the situation".
In addition to revoking visas, Mr Pompeo said the US was looking into the possibility of imposing sanctions on those believed to be involved in Khashoggi's killing.
"These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States," he added.
A State Department official told CNN that the suspects whose visas were being revoked would not be named due to "visa confidentiality".
What is Turkey's stance?
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told MPs from his ruling party that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was planned days in advance.
He said Turkey had strong evidence Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated and "savage" murder at the consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
He also called for the suspects to be tried in Istanbul.
Mr Erdogan's address coincided with the start of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia that has been overshadowed by the Khashoggi case. Dozens of government and business leaders have pulled out, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared at the event on Tuesday.
Many world leaders have condemned the murder of the prominent Saudi critic and demanded a full investigation.-BBC