ISTANBUL — As the White House takes its first steps to punish those involved in the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, the senior Saudi royal who many people believe is directly linked to the killing, was due to give his first public remarks on Wednesday since the incident.
President Trump, who accepted the Saudi royal family’s original denials of responsibility, said on Tuesday that Khashoggi’s killing involved “the worst cover-up in history.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the State Department would revoke visas for 21 Saudis the U.S. has identified as being part of the operation that saw Khashoggi killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
As CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was expected to speak on Wednesday at an investment conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. It would be his first public remarks since the killing of Khashoggi on Oct. 2.
Prince Salman joined several other dignitaries on the stage at the Saudi Future Investment Initiative summit on Wednesday. The third question from the moderator to the panel was for the crown prince, asking him to address the Khashoggi scandal.
The heir-in-waiting said the “crime was really painful to all Saudis, and I believe it is really painful to every human in the world.”
He called the killing a “heinous crime that cannot be justified,” but accused unidentified entities of attempting to, “use this painful thing to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I want to send them a message; they will not be able to do that.”
The crown prince said Saudi Arabia was “carrying out all legal measures” in cooperation with Turkish authorities to “present the perpetrators to the court” in the case. The prince spoke moments after Turkey confirmed that he had spoken on Wednesday on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the Saudi royal’s request, and that the who men had agreed to work together to find those guilty in Khashoggi’s death.
After he gave his remarks on the Khashoggi case case Wednesday, the following questions put to the crown prince were all on investment.
Prince Salman appeared calm and confident on stage, but as Williams reports, Saudi Arabia has been scrambling to carry out damage control. Extraordinary pictures published on Tuesday by the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom’s state-controlled media showed King Salman and the crown prince delivering personal condolences to Jamal Khashoggi’s grieving brother and son.
As Williams reports, it is hard to imagine what was going through Salah and Sahl Khashoggi’s minds during the meeting, given that Turkish officials and some senior U.S. lawmakers believe the crown prince was somehow involved in Khashoggi’s killing.
President Trump again stressed the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship on Tuesday, but he also sharply criticized the killing — and the Saudi deception that followed.
“The cover-up was horrible,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “The execution was horrible, but there should never have been and execution or a cover-up because it should never have happened.”
When Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made his first appearance at the investment conference on Tuesday, he was greeted with applause.
The crown prince has portrayed himself as a modernizer, and the conference in Riyadh is supposed to showcase his reforms. But at least two dozen business and political leaders have pulled out, in protest over Khashoggi’s slaying.
There’s still no confirmation as to what the Saudis did with Khashoggi’s body. Saudi officials have said the men who killed him — whom they insist were acting outside of their mandate — wrapped his body in a rug and then handed it over to an unidentified “local collaborator” for disposal.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing the Saudis of a premeditated “political murder,” challenged the Saudis to identify the “collaborator” or lead investigators to Khashoggi’s body.
Turkish police searched a car registered to the Saudi consulate on Tuesday after it was found in an underground parking lot in Istanbul. Turkish media were still reporting on Wednesday that police had found no significant evidence linking the vehicle to the Khashoggi case.