“We are strong and old allies so we face our challenges together,” bin Salman (MBS) told Pompeo as he arrived in Riyadh.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert described Pompeo’s talks with MBS as “direct and candid” and that Pompeo thanked MBS for “his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.”
“Learning what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is the primary purpose of this trip and is of great interest to the president,” Nauert said. “The secretary has made that clear in each of his meetings today.”
Trump has suggested without evidence that “rogue killers” could be responsible for Khashoggi’s death despite audio and video recordings of the murder claimed to be in possession of Turkish officials and an evolving cover story being pushed by the Saudis.
The Saudi government is reportedly preparing to announce that Khashoggi, who was interrogated, tortured and murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul October 2, was killed by accident during a botched interrogation.
“Two sources close to the kingdom confirmed to CBS News later on Monday that the Saudi government was planning to admit he was killed, but call it an accident,” Tucker Reals reported on Tuesday.
It won’t be so easy, however, to write off the 15 Saudi operatives lying in wait inside the Saudi Consulate for Khashoggi’s arrival with a bone saw in hand as an accident.
But not everyone close to the administration is willing to take the Saudis at their word. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday said MBS was a “wrecking ball” who likely ordered the assassination of Khashoggi.
“He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused,” Graham said on Fox & Friends.
The Turkish government is conducting its own investigation as well.
In a statement on Monday, Khashoggi’s family called for an “independent and impartial commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death.”
“We are sadly and anxiously following the conflicting news regarding the fate of our father after losing contact with him two weeks ago, when he disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,” the statement said. “Our family is traumatized, and yearns to be together during this painful time.”