Trump's tone shifts on missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, raising the prospect of US sanctions on Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump on Friday
acknowledged that an "event" occurred earlier this month at the Saudi
consulate in Istanbul, where journalist Jamal Khashoggi is believed to
have been killed.

The president also said he knew "a lot already" about what had happened
to the dissident journalist, but he declined to say exactly what. This
came just a day after Trump had called Khashoggi's suspected death "bad,
bad stuff."

Trump emphasized that his administration would "find out who knew what,
when and where" about Khashoggi's fate. He also said Congress will be
involved "very much" on what the next steps would be in the U.S.-Saudi
relationship. "I will very much listen to what Congress has to say,"
Trump told reporters.

Several top Republicans in Congress have called for swift sanctions on
the longtime U.S. ally in retaliation for Khashoggi's death. But Trump
has voiced concerns both publicly and privately about the potential risk
of upending the longstanding military and diplomatic relationship.

Even as Trump refuted reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
received intelligence about Khashoggi's death from the Turkish
government, it was evident Friday that there was a shift in the
president's attitude toward Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally in the
Middle East.

Trump appeared to dismiss the claims underpinning blanket denials coming
from Saudi officials, who insist they know nothing about Khashoggi's

Representatives of the ruling Saudi royal family have yet to offer any
alternative to their initial version of events, which was that Khashoggi
entered the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, and he walked out a short while

On Thursday, Trump said for the first time Khashoggi had most likely
been killed. The president did not, however, say how he had reached this
conclusion. Turkish officials have reportedly identified 15 Saudi
officials they believe carried out the extra-judicial killing, several
of whom work directly for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Asked by a reporter whether Khashoggi was dead, Trump replied, "It certainly looks that way."

The president also took a harder line Thursday on what potential
consequences Saudi Arabia might face if they are shown to have been
involved in the dissident journalist's death.

"It will have to be very severe," Trump told reporters at Andrews Air
Force Base. "It's bad, bad stuff," Trump said, before tacking on his
preferred caveat: "But we'll see what happens."

Turkish officials have reportedly said they are in possession of tapes
proving that Khashoggi was tortured to death and that his body was later
dismembered. So far no U.S. officials have confirmed that they've seen
the alleged tapes.

Pompeo visited both Saudi Arabia and Turkey this week, but returned with
few answers about what actually happened. Saudi Arabia claims it is
conducting an internal investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance, but
it has yet to present any results.

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