President Trump said Friday that he plans to call Saudi Arabia’s king to discuss the disappearance and alleged killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
“We’re going to find out what happened with respect to the terrible situation in Turkey having to do with Saudi Arabia and the reporter,” Trump told reporters. “And nobody knows quite yet. Nobody’s been able to put it all together. People are starting to form ideas, and as they’re formed, we’ll let you know, but it’s certainly a terrible thing.”
Trump, who made his comments upon landing in Ohio to headline a campaign rally, said he plans to call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman “at some point” to discuss Khashoggi’s unexplained disappearance.
Trump has long boasted of his warm relationship with Salman, who feted the U.S. president when he visited Riyadh in May 2017 for his first foreign stop while in office.
Asked whether Saudi Arabia’s history of authoritarian rule and restrictions on human rights had been overlooked for too long, Trump defended the oil-rich Arabian Desert kingdom.
“I think a lot of records are overlooked,” Trump said. “If you look at Iran, if you look at some of the other countries, if you take a look at Syria, if you take a look at a lot of countries, a lot of countries’ records have been overlooked. But this is a very serious thing and we’re looking at it in a very serious manner.”
Saudi Arabia is hosting the Future Investment Initiative, a high-profile international business conference, next week in Riyadh, but several media organizations as well as some headlining attendees have withdrawn because of the Khashoggi situation.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is scheduled to represent the Trump administration at the conference, and he said Friday morning on CNBC that he was planning on going “at this point.”
But Trump told reporters Friday afternoon that it was undetermined whether Mnuchin would attend.
“He will make that determination,” Trump said. “A lot of people are going over to the investment conference. We’ll see what happens. Maybe some won’t be going. We’ll make that determination very soon.”