US President Donald Trump yesterday criticised mounting global condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the mystery of allegedly murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi Echoing Saudis’ request for patience, he warned of a rush to judgment.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr Trump compared the case of Khashoggi to the allegations of sexual assault levelled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
Officials in Turkey have said Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudis’ Istanbul consulate before last week.
“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned”, Mr Trump added.
President’s remarks were his most robust defence of the Saudis, a US ally he has made central to his Mideast agenda.
But his complaint about “guilty until proven innocent” and comparison to the Kavanaugh situation suggested he was giving the Saudis more leeway than other allies.
President trump’s remarks are at odds with other key allies and leaders in his Republican Party who have condemned the Saudi leadership for what they say is an obvious role in the case.
Mr Trump appeared willing to resist the pressure to follow suit, accepting Saudi denials and their pledge to investigate.
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The Oval Office interview came after Mr Trump spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He spoke by phone a day earlier with King Salman, and he said they deny any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi.
Meanwhile, in Turkey earlier Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the AP that police investigators searching the Saudi Consulate had found evidence that Khashoggi was killed there.
Also, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the king and crown prince in Riyadh and said the Saudis had already started a “serious and credible investigation” and seemed to suggest it could lead to people within the kingdom.
Mr Pompeo was heading next to Turkey, where officials have accused the Saudis of using a 15-member team to kill Khashoggi inside the consulate.
Relations with a crown prince
In the meantime, there were signs at home that Mr Trump’s party was growing uncomfortable with his willingness to defend the Saudis. In an interview with Fox News, a prominent Trump ally in the Senate called on Saudi Arabia to reject the crown prince who rose to power last year
“This guy has got to go,” said Sen Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you can choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself”, said Graham.
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, was also a resident of the United States. He has been a contributor to The Washington Post and a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed. International leaders and business executives are severing or rethinking ties to the Saudi government after Khashoggi’s high-profile disappearance.
Khashoggi went to the consulate on October 2 to get documents for his upcoming marriage to a Turkish woman while his fiancee waited outside. She and Turkish authorities say he never emerged and he has not been heard from since.
Khashoggi, 59, had been living in the US for a year in self-imposed exile and writing columns for the opinion section of the Post.