Trump dispatches Pompeo to discuss Khashoggi with Saudi King
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will leave for Saudi Arabia 'within the hour or so’, President Donald Trump confirmed in a tweet on Monday, after a phone call with King Salman in which the Saudi leader denied knowledge of the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened 'to our Saudi Arabian citizen,'" Trump said in a tweet, in which he confirmed he was "immediately sending" Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king.
Trump also spoke with reporters at the White House following his call with King Salman, adding that "the denial was very, very strong".
"It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?" he said.
Saudi Arabia has come under fire from the international community over the mysterious disappearance, causing the Saudi stock market plunged by seven percent at one point on Sunday.
Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is the kingdom's de facto ruler, vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Turkish police say Khashoggi, who had been in self-imposed exile in the United States, was murdered inside the consulate by a 15-member Saudi team flown into the country, according to Turkish government sources.
Saudi Arabia insists Khashoggi exited the consulate after a brief visit but has failed to explain the journalist's fate after entering its consulate building.
Turkish investigators were on Monday expected to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for the first time since journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman discussed the case by phone.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to sort out marriage paperwork on October 2.
Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed -- a claim Saudi Arabia refuted - and the controversy has dealt a huge blow to the image of the kingdom and efforts by the youthful crown prince to showcase a reform drive.
Riyadh had so far not allowed the search at the Istanbul consulate - officially Saudi territory - amid reports both sides were at odds over the conditions of the probe.
But a Turkish diplomatic source said it was expected that the search, a joint operation with Saudi authorities, would "take place towards the evening" Monday.
On Saturday, Trump threatened Saudi Arabia with "severe punishment" if it is responsible for harming Khashoggi.
Twenty-two senators have written to Trump invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which requires the president to open an investigation and determine whether sanctions should be imposed.
The act is used in cases of suspected "extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognised human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression," the senators said.
Saudi Arabia in return threatened a strong response to possible sanctions, in a statement carried by state news agency SPA on Sunday, citing an official source.
"The kingdom affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action," the statement said.
"The kingdom also affirms its total rejection of any threats or attempts to undermine it whether through threats to impose economic sanctions or the use of political pressure,"
The statement also condemned "false accusations aimed at undermining" the country, without directly acknowledging Khashoggi's disappearance.
Jamal Khashoggi is one of the Arab world's best-known journalists, having fled Saudi Arabia following Mohammed bin Salman's clampdown on perceived critics.
He moved to the US and has been a contributor to The Washington Post.
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