Trump: Saudi journalist's death the 'worst cover-up ever'

Trump ramps up rhetoric against Saudi Arabia over death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Elad Benari ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday ramped up his rhetoric against Saudi Arabia over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, describing the kingdom’s efforts to hide the journalist’s killing as the “worst cover-up ever.”

“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover up was the worst in the history of cover ups. They had the worst cover up ever,” Trump told reporters at the White House, according to The Hill.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier rejected the Saudis' account of Khashoggi's killing and said the dissident journalist was murdered in a pre-planned operation directed by top Saudi officials.

“Whoever thought of that idea I think is in big trouble and they should be in big trouble,” Trump said, referring to the possible plot to kill Khashoggi.

“Nobody likes what happened,” Trump said of the reaction he's heard from foreign leaders he's spoken with.

At the same time, Trump continued to say he opposes the idea of ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He said the US would just be "hurting ourselves" if it turned away from Saudi Arabia and did not go forward with arms sales to the Middle East state.

Trump added he would defer to Congress, at least to an extent, on the next steps.

Khashoggi has been missing since October 2, when he was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Turkish government has accused Saudi Arabia of murdering the dissident journalist and chopping his body into pieces.

Saudi Arabia admitted for the first time on Friday that Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate in Istanbul, after previously denying Turkish claims that he was murdered.

On Monday, Trump said in an interview with USA Today that he still believed Khashoggi’s murder was “a plot gone awry”.

Trump said he had talked on the phone with both the Saudi Crown Prince and with Erdogan and that more details about what happened inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey would be known within a day or two.

“He says he is not involved nor is the king,” Trump said of the Saudi Crown Prince, declining to answer whether he believed his denials. If their involvement was proven, “I would be very upset about it. We’ll have to see.”

He also called the killing of Khashoggi, a journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, “foolish and stupid.”