President Trump has once again come to the defense of Saudi Arabia, telling reporters on Monday morning that Saudi officials have repeatedly denied murdering critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi—and suggesting that Khashoggi could have been murdered by “rogue killers” instead. “I just spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge of what took place, with regard to, what he said, was his Saudi Arabian citizen,” Trump said, according to pool video outside the White House. Trump added that he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to investigate. “I don’t want to get into [the king’s] mind,” Trump added, “but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?”
Trump’s comments come after weeks of his refusal to blame the Saudis for Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Turkish government insists that 15 Saudi intel agents ambushed the Washington Post contributor on Oct. 2 as he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and claim they have video and audio evidence to prove it. Turkish investigators are expected to inspect the consulate on Monday—but footage from Reuters and AP cameras tweeted by i24 reporter Nurit Ben appear to show a cleaning crew entering the building ahead of the inspection. Trump promised Sunday that Saudi Arabia would face “severe punishment” if it is found culpable for Khashoggi’s murder.