On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it rejects any “threats” of political or economic pressure after Donald Trump, during an interview with CBS for “60 Minutes,” said there would be “severe punishment” if missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was in fact killed inside the Saudi consulate located in Istanbul.
The official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement:
“The Kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations.”
“The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the Kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”
To be clear, this statement does not explicitly mention Trump, or even Khashoggi, by name. But it came the day after a clip from Trump’s interview aired, so with context, the implications are clear.
Khashoggi is a Saudi citizen but has lived in the United States for the last year. As his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz put it in her OpEd for the New York Times, Khashoggi, “fled Saudi Arabia with two suitcases amid a crackdown on intellectuals and activists who criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, has been a dissenting voice, critical of their government, particularly of the Royal family.
Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. He reportedly went to the consulate to get documents for his upcoming marriage to Cengiz.
Saudi firmly denies any involvement in the journalist’s disappearance. In fact, they claim he left the consulate the same afternoon he arrived. Cengiz, who says she was waiting for him outside of the consulate, says he never came back out.
CNN reports that a source familiar with the investigation told them that Turkish authorities have visual and audio evidence that confirms Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
Sabah, a pro-government, privately owned Turkish newspaper, alleges Khashoggi may have recorded his own death via his Apple Watch, but these claims have not been verified.
When asked if he believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave an order to kill the missing journalist, Trump said, “Nobody knows yet, but we’ll probably be able to find out…We would be very upset and angry if that were the case.”
In his interview with CBS, Trump shares that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, spoke with the crown prince, who denied involvement with Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“They deny it. They deny it every way you can imagine. In the not too distant future I think we’ll know an answer,” said Trump.
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