Oct 16, 2018, 6:24 PM ET

Trump: Saudi crown prince 'totally denied any knowledge' of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

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Saudi Arabia's young crown prince is again denying any involvement in the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he spoke with him and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Tuesday after dispatching the top U.S. diplomat to the region amid international outrage over Khashoggi's possible death.

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"Answers will be forthcoming shortly," Trump added.

In photo-ops with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Pompeo greeted them warmly, even as the Saudis weigh whether to accept culpability for Khashoggi's death, a source with knowledge of their discussions told ABC News.

It was unclear what explanation they would give or when that statement would come. Turkey has said they believe Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

PHOTO: Saudi Arabias King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 16, 2018.Leah Millis/Pool via Reuters
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 16, 2018.

The Saudis have fiercely denied that charge, with the Trump administration urging caution until an investigation can take place. But while the Saudis said Khashoggi left the consulate and disappeared later, there's no evidence that he ever exited the compound after entering 14 days ago.

After "direct and candid" meetings with Saudi leaders, Pompeo said he believed they had a "serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia's senior leaders or senior officials." The U.S. would await a "full and complete conclusion with full transparency" from the Saudi public prosecutor, he said in a statement.

But Trump seemed to already have an answer he approved, tweeting that with Pompeo joining him on the phone, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate... He has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter."

On Monday, he said "rogue killers" could be responsible, even though there has been no confirmation yet that Khashoggi is dead.

Pompeo raising the possibility of "accountability" for senior Saudi officials was a notable departure after his seemingly warm meetings during the day. But critics were quick to point out that the Saudi track record on investigations is poor, with the public prosecutor known more recently for arresting women's rights activists, detaining Saudi princes at the Ritz Carlton and demanded payments, and warning Saudi citizens against "sharing or spreading rumors or fake news" on Saturday.

Pompeo will head to Turkey's capital Ankara on Wednesday to discuss Khashoggi's case with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu and others. Officials there have at times had to skirmish with the Saudis over their investigation, first waiting nearly two weeks to be given access to the consulate and on Tuesday being denied entry to the top Saudi diplomat's residence in Istanbul. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested Tuesday that the consulate may have been recently painted, too -- one day after a cleaning crew was seen entering hours before Turkish police.

In his first meeting Tuesday with King Salman, Pompeo had words of thanks for Saudi's "strong partnership" and "his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. The importance of that investigation was something Pompeo and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also agreed on, Nauert said.

PHOTO: A Turkish forensic police officer works in Saudi Arabias consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 15, 2018 during the investigation over missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images
A Turkish forensic police officer works in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 15, 2018 during the investigation over missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But it's the crown prince or "MBS," as he is sometimes known, that members of Congress and other U.S. officials worry ordered the plot against Khashoggi.

Painted as a bright, young reformer who has opened up Saudi Arabia to movie theaters, sporting events, and women driving, the crown prince has also overseen a crackdown on political opposition, including by arresting several wealthy Saudi princes, and activists, including women's rights advocates.

Media reporting of his alleged involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and possible death has strengthened that darker image of a ruthless young leader.

"I'm not going back to Saudi Arabia as long as this guy's in charge," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch supporter of U.S.-Saudi relations and close ally of Trump's. "This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it – I feel used and abused."

"I'm going to sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia. You know, we deal with bad people all the time, but this is in our face. I feel personally offended. They have nothing but contempt for us," Graham told Fox News Tuesday, adding the crown prince "has got to go."

PHOTO: Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Manama, Bahrain, Feb. 1, 2015. Turkey claims that Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed inside a Saudi diplomatic mission in Turkey. Hasan Jamali, File/AP, FILE
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Manama, Bahrain, Feb. 1, 2015. Turkey claims that Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed inside a Saudi diplomatic mission in Turkey.

That kind of language was once unheard of from a high-level Republican official, especially one as senior in foreign policy circles.

The tone from Pompeo's trip was noticeably different. He smiled and shook hands with King Salman and the crown prince, with whom he joked about jetlag.

"We are really strong and old allies, so we face our challenges together -- the past, the day of, tomorrow," MBS told Pompeo, who nodded along and responded, "Absolutely."

Pompeo's meetings during the day all lasted around 30 minutes, but in the evening he'll have dinner with the crown prince, which is expected to be a longer affair.

PHOTO: Saudi investigators arrive ahead of Turkish police at the Saudi Arabian consulate on Oct. 15, 2018 in Istanbul.Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Saudi investigators arrive ahead of Turkish police at the Saudi Arabian consulate on Oct. 15, 2018 in Istanbul.

Ahead of Pompeo's visit to Ankara, the U.S. had welcomed Turkey and Saudi Arabia announcing a "joint inspection" of the consulate, and the first Turkish police officials were able to enter the compound Monday.

So far the investigation has not yielded any publicly released results, but an official told ABC News on Monday that the Saudis are considering whether to claim involvement.

The U.S. has declined to comment on that possibility.

PHOTO: A food vendor pushes his cart past the residence of Saudi Arabias Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi in Istanbul on Oct. 16, 2018.Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images
A food vendor pushes his cart past the residence of Saudi Arabia's Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi in Istanbul on Oct. 16, 2018.

News - Trump: Saudi crown prince 'totally denied any knowledge' of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

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  • David

    Trump's supporters continue pointing to the DOW as Trump's high mark, Boeing is one 8 companies carrying the DOW ytd earnings, Trump can't let his adoring base down, even if it means turning a bad eye to murder. It's all about perception.

  • Chuck

    Now that you have a Pathological World Class liar leading the United States, everyone is OK with lying. It is like it is now the right of those that need to hide the truth. Just lie. What the hell!!!

  • Williamson Brian

    Well guess what Donnie....that is probably a load of $h#t

  • Thomas

    "...Trump administration urging caution until an investigation can take place. "

    All of a sudden the Trump administration is interested in waiting until facts are in before taking action?

  • David

    Remember good Christians to vote November 6th for Republicans with Christian values, murder, lies, adultery and greed are those things that Jesus cherishes above all.

  • fuzzback

    Turns out the "swamp" is GLOBAL.

  • fuzzback

    Anyone who has spent time in Saudi Arabia knows the prince is LYING, and trump is too.

  • concernedvoter

    The king Denies it strongly, good enough for Trump, Putin Denies involvement, good enough for Trump, Mrs Ford Claims she was assaulted by Kavanagh 100%, per Trump she's a liar and a slut..

  • Ctrygrl

    Will be just like Russia and Putin, abundant proof of election interference but the president still believes Putin. This will be just the same, he will believe MBS, too much past and future money at stake plus involvement of Jared and Jr.

  • inonepeice

    Trump should demand an investigation as thorough as the investigation he oversaw in the Ford/Kavanaugh case... An investigation as detailed and comprehensive as his 1 page agreement with N. Korea.. Oh, he'll get to the bottom of it alright. He's going to be looking into it. Believe me. ( rolls eyes)

  • inonepeice

    If it were Iran Trump would be all over it. Just saying.

  • wd65

    The crown prince chose the right guy to lie to, Trump. Trump prefers lies to the truth. From Putin and now from the crown prince, and of course from himself. And he knows his supporters also prefer to believe his lies to the truth.

  • Nearl56 12

    What Trump lacks is an open mind.

    The evidence is forthcoming and damning.

    To Trump is it always about money, alliance and allegiance. The facts?

    They are malleable.

  • BobMex

    FACT
    The Saudis sent their head of forensic evidence Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, with a bone saw to cut Khashoggi up the day before they murdered him.

  • PeterFromDuluth

    Draining the swamp into T's stomach!
    Saudi can make T do anything by holding the receipts of bribes from Trump Tower, Trump Golf, Trump xxx, etc.

  • Clyde Delgato

    Honestly this is a tough one for us. It shouldn't be but it is. There is nothing convenient about accusing the Saudi monarchy of being involved with murder. This is bad for our arms sales. Bad for oil prices. Bad for our hopeless endeavor to stabilize the most unstable region on the planet.
    But, if we are a nation that actually respects laws and values human life than our position must be clear. We must condemn Saudi Arabia's actions if the evidence supports condemnation. Otherwise we are hypocrites and our values mean nothing. Once again the world is watching and once again we must make some stand however feeble even if it's nothing more than a resolution to say shame on you. If we do nothing than we stand for nothing but what is convenient to us. The world will know it. They already suspect it. And they will treat with us accordingly.

  • tet1953

    As long as the Saudis maintain their innocence they are off the hook with Trump.

  • 1KRats

    Walk likes a duck. Quack likes a duck. It's a what? Here we have Goldie Locks and let's not forget Congress who have climbed in bed with Saudi Arabia selling their souls for money and these are the same guys who had 15 citizens of Saudi Arabia involved in 911. He has the balls to tell us they are helping us fight terrorists. Goldie Locks doesn't know enough to pound sand.

  • Charles James

    If we get past the high level dialogue and follow the why and how this case is seen for what it is. Saudi government officials involved an interrogation team to fly to Turkey to abduct this Washington Post journalist…it was never meant to be a friendly chat over tea… The interrogation went right, he was taken out and returned to Saudi Arabia in pieces, it went wrong because we are still talking about it. This is what happens when freedom of the press and freedom of speech gets too close to the house of Saud and the U.S. doesn’t give a dried fig about this kind of violent censorship…just show me the money and I’ll talk talk talk and pass to the Saudis the plate of flimsy hollow justice to feast on. Wow…this really makes America great again?!?!