ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — More than one week after a prominent Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist went missing, President Donald Trump has spoken to Saudi officials “at the highest level” to press them on his disappearance, he said Wednesday.
Trump declined to comment on whether he would hold the Saudis responsible, saying, “I have to find out who did it.” But he said the U.S. is demanding answers: “We’re demanding everything, we want to see what’s going on here.”
Critics have accused the White House of being slow to react to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and hesitant to criticize the Saudi government, a close partner of the Trump administration.
A vocal critic of the kingdom’s rulers, Khashoggi went missing last Tuesday after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, for routine paperwork.
But in his first extensive remarks about Khashoggi’s case, Trump warned it is “a very sad situation. It’s a very bad situation. And we want to get to the bottom of it … I’m not happy about this.”
“We cannot let this happen — to reporters, to anybody,” he added during the Oval Office meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator.
Surveillance footage released by the Turkish government shows Khashoggi entering the consulate, but they say there is no evidence he left afterward, leading Turkish officials to say they believe he was killed. The Saudi government has fiercely denied that allegation.
In addition to Trump’s call, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the real power behind his father King Salman, on Tuesday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following up in a separate call “to reiterate the United States request for information,” according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
All three officials pressed MBS, as the Crown Prince is known, for more details and urged his government to support a transparent investigation, Sanders added.
It’s unclear what the U.S. knows about Khashoggi’s disappearance, but Trump did cast some doubt on the rumors that Khashoggi was murdered.
“Nobody knows what happened yet. They don’t know over there,” he said, although it’s unclear if he meant the Saudis did not know or if Turkish authorities who are investigating still do not know.
After Khashoggi’s fiance wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, pleading for Trump and his wife Melania’s help, the president said that the first lady’s office was working on inviting her to the White House.
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