'A Few More Days' Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo Urges More Time For Saudi Arabia

Oct 18, 2018
Originally published on October 18, 2018 11:03 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump says it certainly looks as though Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi is dead. But the president is not ready to talk about specific consequences if it turns out the Saudis are responsible.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It will have to be very severe. I mean, it's bad, bad stuff. But we'll see what happens.

KELLY: There have been grisly news reports that The Washington Post columnist was tortured and dismembered. The case is straining U.S.-Saudi relations. But Trump administration officials say they don't want to jump to conclusions. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Just back from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to the White House today to brief President Trump, saying the Saudis are promising they will be thorough in their investigation.

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MIKE POMPEO: I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that so that we, too, have a complete understanding of the facts surrounding that, at which point we can make decisions about how or if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi.

KELEMEN: Pompeo says it's important to remember that Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner for the U.S., and he is not weighing in publicly on the news reports detailing the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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POMPEO: There are lots of stories out there about what has happened. We just are going to allow the process to move forward, allow the facts to unfold. And as they unfold, as we make a determination for ourselves about what happened there based on the facts that are presented to us, the United States will determine what the appropriate response might be.

KELEMEN: The Trump administration did take one step today canceling plans for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to go to an investment conference in Saudi Arabia. That decision was long overdue, says Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont.

PATRICK LEAHY: Oh, I think the Saudis have had plenty of time to tell us what happened. After all, it happened in their building, their consulate.

KELEMEN: Leahy was among a bipartisan group of senators calling on the administration to impose human rights sanctions on anyone involved in Khashoggi's disappearance.

LEAHY: We should block assets. We should deny visas. The Saudis have lied to us in the past about their war crimes in Yemen. They've caused thousands of civilian casualties. It appears as though they've been lying constantly at the highest levels about Mr. Khashoggi. Let's say enough is enough.

KELEMEN: The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, told The Washington Post that the Trump administration clamped down on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi. Probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia, Corker is quoted as saying. Leahy says one thing is already clear. Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul October 2 and hasn't been seen since.

LEAHY: And unfortunately the president acts as though, well, we have to accept their word on this because they're going to buy things from the United States. I don't think the U.S. should be for sale.

KELEMEN: Several human rights groups are calling for a U.N. investigation. Sherine Tadros of Amnesty International is urging Turkey to show the political will and asked the U.N. to get involved.

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SHERINE TADROS: Because it's very easy in these next coming days as Saudi investigates itself for us to just, you know, move on. And that really can't happen. That would be a real - a crime.

KELEMEN: She was speaking at a briefing at the U.N. alongside Lou Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch who says rights groups and journalists need to keep the pressure on to make sure Turkey isn't releasing details of its investigation just to get diplomatic leverage on the Saudis or Americans.

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LOU CHARBONNEAU: The last thing that we want to see is there to be some sort of deal or payoff at a high-level exchange between governments to say, OK, we're satisfied; we've figured things out.

KELEMEN: He says the world needs a credible and international investigation. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.