The U.S. has asked Turkey for a recording that could reveal gruesome details of what happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump said Wednesday. But he’s not confirming there is any such recording, as reported by Turkish media, and he’s continuing to urge patience while Saudi Arabia says it’s investigating.
Asked about a recording described by the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, Trump said, “We’ve asked for it, if it exists.” At another point, he said, “I’m not sure yet that it exists.”
Trump, who threatened punishment for Saudi Arabia when Khashoggi’s disappearance first came to light two weeks ago, has repeatedly noted Saudi leaders’ denials since then and insisted the U.S. must know the facts before taking action.
But when asked if he was “giving cover” to the Saudi leaders, he said Wednesday that he was not.
“No, not at all,” he declared.
Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Mideast, is under pressure to explain what happened to Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor living in the U.S. who had been critical of the crown prince. Turkish officials have said he was murdered, and the Turkish newspaper’s report said an audio recording revealed gory details about Khashoggi’s demise inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Trump has repeated denials by the Saudi king and crown prince that they knew anything about Khashoggi’s fate, and he has warned of a rush to judgment.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, dispatched by Trump to the region, said the U.S. takes Khashoggi’s disappearance seriously.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Trump compared the case of Khashoggi to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. Kavanaugh denied the allegations and was confirmed to the court.
“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. 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.