Turkey's Erdogan drops bombshell twist in the Khashoggi case as Trump appears to side with Saudis
Saudi Press Agency
- Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan suggested the Saudis may have covered up a murder in their Turkish embassy, a dramatic new twist in the case of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Investigators were yesterday allowed access to the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, where Turkey has said a hit team of 15 killed and dismembered Khashoggi.
- Erdogan said they found surfaces newly painted over, which could indicate an attempt to conceal evidence.
- President Donald Trump on Monday said he talked to Saudi King Salman and now leans towards the idea that "rogue killers," not Saudi agents, killed Khashoggi.
- Saudi Arabia finds itself under increasing international pressure as it reportedly tries to piece together an alibi over Khashoggi's disappearance.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan dropped a bombshell of a new twist in the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Saudi Arabian critic Jamal Khashoggi, while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was meeting with the Kingdom's leaders on Tuesday.
According to Erdogan, Turkish investigators who searched Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul found surfaces there newly painted over.
Previously Turkey has suggested that a hit team of 15 killed and dismembered Khashoggi inside the consulate.
"My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over," Erdogan told reporters, as Turkish pro-Erdogan website Yeni Safak noted.
Turkish investigators acknowledged that searching the consulate 13 days after Khashoggi vanished wasn't ideal. During the search they used a dog and took soil samples as well as a metal door from the garden, according to Reuters.
Turkish officials have also said they have audio of the brutal murder.
Saudi Arabia's potential alibi
The New York Times on Monday reported that Saudi Arabia had finally prepared an alibi after only offering denials of wrongdoing as Turkish officials repeatedly alleged that the death was a premeditated murder.
The Times cited sources as saying the Saudi plan was reportedly to chalk Khashoggi's death up to an "interrogation gone wrong," done without the monarchy's knowledge.
After a phone call with Saudi King Salman on Monday, President Donald Trump suggested that "rogue killers" may have carried out the murder, rather than the Saudi royalty themselves.
Appearing to find the explanation a little too good to be true, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who has access to US intelligence reports, tweeted he had already heard the Saudis would try to deny fault by blaming "rogue killers."
He accused Trump of having been enlisted as Saudi Arabia's "PR agent to float" the denial.
If rogue agents not under the command of the Saudi royals interrogated and accidentally killed a critic of the monarchy inside a Saudi consulate, it may exonerate the royals in any criminal proceedings. But it would also likely raise the question of how competent they are to allow such a thing to happen.
How is it going for Saudi Arabia now?
Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Trump threatened "severe punishment" if it turns out the Saudis did kill Khashoggi, a US resident.
But he also repeatedly backed off the idea of halting arms sales and emphasized that Khashoggi was not a US citizen.
Even though Trump added the caveat of maintaining arms sales, Saudi Arabia responded harshly, saying it would retaliate and escalate the situation if it suffered any consequences from the Khashoggi case.
Harsh responses to any gentle criticism or genuine questions have become a hallmark of Saudi foreign policy under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is set to inherit the throne from his father.
Saudi Arabia has found itself becoming isolated since Khashoggi vanished on their property in Istanbul, with individuals and businesses increasingly cutting ties to the kingdom.
"This is going to alter the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said about the Khashoggi case on CNN, joining a growing chorus of Senators who now want to investigate and potentially sanction the kingdom over the boiling controversy.
On Tuesday, Pompeo landed in Riyadh to meet with Saudi King Salman to discuss Khashoggi's disappearance.
CNN reporters covering the meeting say it lasted no longer than 15 minutes.
While Trump and the Saudis appear on the same page about "rogue killers," Erdogan reminded on Tuesday that Turkey remains in control of the facts of the case as their investigators continue to uncover potentially damning information.
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