President Donald Trump and his secretary of state put more pressure on Saudi Arabia, and appeared more determined on Tuesday to find out who actually ordered and carried out the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, just hours after CIA Director Gina Haspel arrived for meetings in Turkey.
Trump called the Istanbul killing the “worst cover-up in the history of cover-ups,” though he wouldn’t say whom he thought was responsible.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke shortly after the president, saying the U.S. is gathering information to identify those responsible and would be taking punitive actions including revoking visas of those involved in the planning or execution of the journalist. Those actions could affect members of the Saudi royal court, Pompeo said.
“We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible, including those in the intelligence services, the royal court, the foreign ministry, and other Saudi ministries whom we suspect to have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s death,” Pompeo told reporters. “We are taking appropriate actions, which include revoking visas.”
The State Department is also working with the Treasury Department as part of an effort to determine whether the U.S. should slap human-rights sanctions on the Saudi regime, under the umbrella of the Global Magnitsky Act.
“These penalties will not be the last word on this matter,” he pledged. “We’re making very clear the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence. Neither the president nor I are happy with this situation.”
The Saudi government has said Khashoggi’s killing was accidental—a botched interrogation that resulted in a struggle during which the dissident journalist was killed. But a video obtained by CNN showing a body double wearing Khashoggi’s clothes leaving the consulate later that day has lent credibility to the Turkish government’s claim, via anonymous officials, that a 15-man hit squad flew into Istanbul to carry out a premeditated murder.
Those close to the Saudi government called it face-saving rhetoric that did nothing to implicate or publicly humiliate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Saudi government launched its own investigation, fired a deputy intelligence general and a handful of other mid-level officials, and put the crown prince in charge of reorganizing the intelligence service.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the Saudi explanation in public comments Tuesday.
“To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community,” he said to the Turkish parliament, adding that he wanted the 18 suspects the Saudi government says it has detained to be tried in Turkish courts.
This story has been updated.