What will a “complete and thorough investigation” of the disappearance and likely death of U.S.-based Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi look like? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters Thursday morning following a meeting with President Trump at the White House, said he expected a forthcoming report from the Saudi government to be “transparent, for everyone to see, to ask question about, and to inquire with respect to its thoroughness.”
Asked for more details about what the United States will expect from this report, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told THE WEEKLY STANDARD, “We will see their final analysis when it’s ready but won’t get ahead of the investigation.”
Pompeo has just returned from a trip to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the two countries involved and separately investigating the incident, where the secretary met with the leaders of both states, including King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both countries are U.S. allies, though tensions between the United States and Turkey have risen since Erdogan’s rise to power.
A longtime critic of the ruling monarchy, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and has not been seen since. The Turkish government has said it has evidence Khashoggi was brutally assassinated by a group of Saudi nationals in the consulate, which Riyadh has so far publicly denied. But the New York Times reports the Saudi government is preparing to blame a high-ranking official close to the crown prince for the murder.
In his remarks outside the White House Thursday, Pompeo stressed that the United States has a “long, strategic relationship” with Saudi Arabia. “They're an important strategic alliance of the United States, and we need to be mindful of that as well."
Pompeo also said he met with some of the Turkish team investigating Khashoggi’s death and that Erdogan assured him Turkey would share its findings with Saudi Arabia. “We do believe that between these two efforts, a complete picture will emerge for what actually transpired here,” Pompeo said. “We’re looking forward to that wrapping up quickly, and we expect that it will be done in that way.” Pompeo noted that both he and President Trump received “personal” assurances from Prince Mohammed the investigation’s report would be transparent.
President Trump has been publicly skeptical that the Saudi government itself was behind Khashoggi’s disappearance and death, noting earlier this week that the Kingdom had “strongly denied” such allegations. Trump also suggested “rogue killers” could have been involved.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence has been more definitive in suggesting the United States would need to respond if Khashoggi was murdered. “If a journalist in particular lost their life at the hands of violence, that's an affront to a free and independent press around the world—and there will be consequences,” Pence said Thursday.