WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump reluctantly acknowledged Wednesday that he has had high-level discussions with Saudi officials over the disappearance and possible slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I’d rather not say, but the answer is yes,” Trump said when asked if conversations had taken place.
Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump declined to say who the Saudi officials were, but said that they were at the “highest” level and took place on more than one occasion.
On Tuesday, Trump had painted a much different picture of the White House’s response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“I don’t know anything,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “I don’t have any updates. No. It’s a sad situation.”
Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post’s opinion section and a critic of Saudi leadership, has been missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey last Tuesday.
His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has said that she was waiting outside while Khashoggi went in to retrieve a document he needed before the two could get married.
According to the Turkish government, Khashoggi is believed to have been killed while in the consulate.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the government has identified a team of 15 men who they believe were behind the murder.
When pressed Wednesday on whether he thinks Khashoggi is dead or what consequences the Saudi government may face, Trump largely demurred, saying that the reports are troubling and that the U.S. intend to “get to the bottom” of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Wednesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House advisor Jared Kushner have all spoken with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
“They asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” Sanders said. “We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as available.”