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Trump: White House Pressed Saudis on Missing Journalist

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in Washington, D.C., October 9, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump said Wednesday that the White House spoke with Saudi officials and “demanded” any existing evidence that can corroborate their claim to have no information regarding the whereabouts of missing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We are demanding everything,” Trump told reporters, likely referring to surveillance footage from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was last seen. “Frankly, the fact that it’s a reporter, you could say in many respects. . . . It’s a very serious situation for us and for this White House. We do not like seeing this.”

Trump added that Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, may visit the White House soon. Cengiz, who wrote a Post op-ed Tuesday urging Trump to pressure the Saudis for information, watched him enter the consulate on October 2. She says she waited outside the building for eleven hours but he never emerged.

Turkish officials claimed to the New York Times Tuesday that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a team of Saudi assassins at the direction of the Saudi royal court. “It is like Pulp Fiction,” one official said of Khashoggi’s alleged murder.

Khashoggi, a long-time Saudi government insider who had become increasingly critical of the country’s ruling royal family, regularly contributed columns to the Post. Anticipating the royal family would try to silence him, Khashoggi fled his home country in June 2017 and sought refuge in Turkey.

Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have categorically denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and have pledged to carry out their own investigation. Surveillance footage from the day Khashoggi disappeared was reportedly removed from the consulate and workers were instructed to stay home.

Turkish president Reccip Tayyip Erdogan has been made aware of Turkish intelligence findings but has not yet issued a statement explicitly accusing the Saudis of murdering Khashoggi, though he has demanded the Saudis turn over any evidence to corroborate their denial.

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