President Donald Trump appears ready to believe the Saudi king’s rejection of charges he had a Washington Post journalist killed, using language almost identical to his statements that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of election meddling.
“Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen,’” Trump tweeted Monday morning.
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen or heard from since entering a Saudi Arabian diplomatic facility in Turkey. He was born in Saudi Arabia, but had exiled himself to write freely and critically of its new leader, King Salman.
Trump told reporters as he left the White House to tour hurricane damage that the missing journalist might have been killed by “rogue killers.”
Trump announced he is dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Salman amid bipartisan calls for the president to somehow punish the longtime Middle East ally for allegedly luring Khashoggi to the facility and then brutally torturing him, before killing him and dismembering his body.
“He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer,” Trump said of the king.
The language Trump used to describe Salman’s denials matches his stated belief that Putin was not involved in his country’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 American presidential race.
Some senators — Republicans and Democrats — want Trump to consider slapping sanctions on any Saudi a federal probe links to the journalist’s disappearance and possible murder.
Trump has been criticized by members of both parties for siding with authoritarian leaders, including Putin, Turkish President Recep Erdogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping and now Salman.
Correction 10:28 a.m. | An earlier version of this article misstated the age of King Salman. He is 82.
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