By Michael Hernandez
U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday it “certainly looks” like missing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, amid speculation he was killed by Saudi Arabia.
“We’re waiting for some investigations, and waiting for the results, and we’ll have them very soon. And I think we’ll be making a statement, a very strong statement, but we’re waiting for the results of about three different investigations,” Trump told reporters before departing for a campaign rally in Montana.
In an interview with The New York Times published after he made the remarks, Trump said, “Unless the miracle of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he’s dead.”
“That’s based on everything — intelligence coming from every side,” Trump told the newspaper.
During his remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrews, Trump pledged “very severe” consequences if Riyadh is determined to have been responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and suspected death but did not elaborate on how Washington might retaliate.
The president has previously voiced reluctance to canceling arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying by doing so the U.S. would “be punishing ourselves.”
Khashoggi has been missing since Oct. 2 when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
On the same day of Khashoggi’s disappearance, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was still inside, according to Turkish police sources. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.
On Wednesday, crime scene investigation units arrived at the official residence of Saudi Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi around 4.40 p.m. local time (1340GMT). Al-Otaibi had left Turkey for Riyadh on Tuesday.
Officials from a joint Turkish-Saudi team completed an investigation into the case early Thursday after searching the residence as well as the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The Turkish team concluded its search for evidence in nine hours and left but returned to the Saudi consulate to continue searching the premises.
Vice President Mike Pence said “the world deserves answers.”
“If what has been alleged occurred, if an innocent person lost their life at the hands of violence, that’s to be condemned,” Pence said Thursday during remarks to reporters in Colorado. “If a journalist in particular lost their life at the hands of violence that’s an affront to a free and independent press around the world. And there will be consequences.”