President Donald Trump said Thursday it appears that Jamal Khashoggi, the missing Saudi journalist and U.S. resident, is dead.
“It certainly looks that way to me, it’s very sad,” Trump said before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Missoula, Montana, where he will host a campaign rally. He did not offer any details.
In an interview with The New York Times, Trump said his conclusion was based on “intelligence coming from every side.”
“Unless the miracle of all miracles happens, I would acknowledge that he’s dead,” Trump told the Times.
Trump vowed “very severe” consequences for Saudi Arabia if its government is found responsible for the journalist’s death. “I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff.”
The president did not elaborate on what action his administration could take. Lawmakers have suggested a range of steps, from economic sanctions on Saudi Arabia to blocking U.S. weapons sales to the Middle East ally. But Trump has said he doesn’t want to disrupt the long-standing U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi journalist, who wrote critically of the kingdom and royal family for The Washington Post, has been missing since entering the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2 to obtain paperwork to marry his fiancee. Turkish officials said he was murdered inside the building, but Saudi officials denied that.
Before leaving for Montana, Trump said he wanted to wait for the results of Saudi and Turkish investigations before deciding what action the United States should take.
According to the Times, Trump accepted intelligence reports from multiple sources that suggest top Saudi government officials played a role in Khashoggi’s alleged murder.
The Times said Trump stopped short of naming the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in Khashoggi’s death. He said allegations of the prince’s involvement raised serious questions about the U.S-Saudi alliance and presented a stark challenge for his foreign policy agenda.
“This one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately,” Trump said. “It’s not a positive. Not a positive.”
Earlier on Thursday, Trump met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the Khashoggi case. Pompeo had just returned from an emergency trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and he told Trump the United States needs to give the Saudis “a few more days” to investigate Khashoggi’s fate.
“We made clear to them that we take this matter very seriously,” Pompeo said of his conversations with Saudi officials in Riyadh. “They assured me that they will conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”