A frustrated Donald Trump denied Friday on Twitter that Turkish authorities played an audiotape of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder for his top diplomat.
‘Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was never given or shown a Transcript or Video of the Saudi Consulate event. FAKE NEWS!’ the president tweeted.
Pompeo issued his own denial on Thursday and criticized ABC News for reporting that he had heard and shared a transcript with Trump.’
‘I’ve seen no tape,’ Pompeo told reporters in Mexico City, adding a moment later: ‘I’ve heard no tape. I’ve seen no transcript.’
‘And the network that reported that ought to pull down the headline that says I have,’ he sniped, according to a State Department transcript of a short press availability.
President Trump denied on Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a transcript or a videotape of journalist Jamal Khashoggi being killed in Saudi Arabia’s Turkich embassy
‘FAKE NEWS!’ the presdient tweeted
Pompeo met with Turkish authorities, and ABC News reported that he was shown and given proof that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert added later that Pompeo ‘has neither heard a tape nor has he seen a transcript related to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.’
ABC reported, based on a single unnamed Turkish source, that Pompeo ‘heard an alleged audio recording of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.’
The story also said Pompeo gave the president a transcript of the recording.
The network hasn’t retracted those claims, but did change its headline overnight to include the State Department’s denial.
Together, the tut-tuts from Trump and Pompeo still left open the possibility that Pompeo was given an audio recording for Trump to listen to, but hadn’t heard it himself.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, however, issued a broader denial.
‘Turkey has not given a voice recording to Pompeo or any other American official,’ he told reporters Thursday. ‘[The] chief prosecutor of Istanbul has launched an investigation and we are waiting for the results of this investigation.’
‘We will share the results that emerge transparently with the whole world. We have not shared any information at all with any country,’ Cavusoglu added.
Pompeo scolded reporters hours later in Mexico City, saying ABC shouldn’t allow foreign sources to speculate anonymously about something the U.S. government has denied.
‘They shouldn’t do that,’ he said. ‘This is wrong to do to the fiancée of Khashoggi. … This is a very serious matter that we’re working diligently on. And so to put out headlines that are factually false does no one any good.’
‘It’s most constructive when the media tells the truth. It’s very useful.’
Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian citizen who has resided in the United States, disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork needed to marry his fiancée.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) during their meeting at Ankara Esenboga Airport in Ankara, Turkey on Wednesay
Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian citizen with U.S. residency, disappeared on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork needed to marry his fiancee
It is widely believed that Khashoggi was brutally tortured and murdered inside the consulate, with the Turkish government investigating an alleged ‘hit squad’ of 15 Saudi security men who entered and exited Istanbul on private jets.
Trump said Thursday that he presumes Khashoggi is dead and that the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia will likely be ‘very severe.’
‘It certainly looks that way to me. It’s very sad,’ Trump said.
In an interview with The New York Times, that president based his acknowledgment that Khashoggi was dead on intelligence reports.
Asked what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: ‘Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff.’
Turkey believes Khashoggi, 59, was murdered inside the consulate while his fiancée waited outside in vain. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has close ties to some of the alleged hit men, has denied the allegation.
Jamal Kashoggi is seen with his finacee Hatice Cengiz, who stood outside the consulate waiting for hours after he walked inside on October 2, never to emerge
Chilling accounts of an audio recording of Khashoggi being tortured and killed have circulated in recent days.
Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak on Wednesday cited what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi’s slaying, which it said showed the writer was tortured.
The newspaper said Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: ‘Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble.’
The newspaper said one of the Saudis torturing Khashoggi replied: ‘Shut up if you want to live when you return to [Saudi] Arabia.’
The audio also reveals that Khashoggi’s fingers were cut off during an interrogation before he was beheaded and dismembered, according to the reports.
Turkish officials reportedly possess the tapes, but it remains unclear if they have shared them with any U.S. officials after Pompeo’s denials on Thursday.
Pompeo was back in Washington on Thursday, after a whirlwind trip to Riyadh and Ankara in an attempt to defuse the mounting international crisis over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Pompeo delivers remarks to reporters following a meeting with Trump about missing Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the White House on Thursday
A man holds Yeni Safak newspaper in a cafe with a headline that reads ‘This is how Khashoggi was slaughtered’ in Ankara, Turkey on Wednesday. The outlet says it has audio of his death
Pompeo told reporters in a press conference outside the White House that he advised Trump that Saudi Arabia should be given a few more days to complete its investigation into the disappearance.
‘I think it’s important for us all to remember, too – we have a long, since 1932, a long strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,’ Pompeo told reporters, also calling Saudi Arabia ‘an important counterterrorism partner.’
The U.S. has long relied on Saudi Arabia as a regional counterbalance to Iran, overlooking a track record of human rights abuses in the kingdom, as well as ongoing bombing in civilian areas of Yemen.
Meanwhile, some of the strongest circumstantial evidence yet linking Prince Mohammed to Khashoggi’s presumed torture and murder emerged on Thursday.
Multiple Turkish outlets reported that the prince’s close confidante Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb was caught on surveillance video entering the consulate just hours before Khashoggi arrived for his appointment.
Mutreb, a Saudi intelligence official, is reportedly high ranking in the elite Royal Guard that personally protects Prince Mohammed.
A man identified by Turkish officials as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb walks toward the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul before writer Jamal Khashoggi disappeared on October 2
Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, reportedly now being sought by Turkish authorities for questioning over Khashoggi’s disappearance, can be seen in the background as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (front right) visits a Habitat for Humanity event in Houston in April
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (seen in file photo) denies any connection to Khashoggi’s apparent murder, despite close ties to alleged hit men at the embassy
On Wednesday, Turkish police conducted a new intensive eight-hour search of the consulate, combing for forensic clues to Khashoggi’s fate.
A team of dozens of police and prosecutors, including forensics experts in white overalls entered the residence of the consul, searching for clues with cadaver dogs and drones.
Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi, who was at the consulate when the alleged assassination of Khashoggi took place, fled Turkey one day before the search was carried out.
It follows a search on Monday, in which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said that investigators found fresh paint and ‘toxic materials’ – potential signs of an attempted cover-up.
Turkish forensic police officers use a sniffer dog for investigation at the back yard of the residence of the Saudi consul Mohammed al-Otaibi in the early hours of Thursday
Investigators are seen carrying gear during the search of the consulate on Wednesday. The search lasted for eight hours and stretched past midnight
What may have happened to the body remains a mystery.
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, raised the alarm at about 5pm on October 2, about three hours after he entered the embassy.
Turkish officials rushed to inspect a private Saudi airplane before it could take off, and failed to find Khashoggi or his remains in the plane or luggage, sources told CNN.
According to local reports, Turkish police are searching an area of woodland outside Istanbul as well as a farm house across the Marmara Sea, in a grim hunt for the journalist’s remains.
Investigators are said to have collected CCTV images from the entrance to Belgrad Forest to the north of the city amid fears the body was dumped there.
After tracing the route of the convoy of cars which left the Saudi consulate on October 2, the search has moved to woodland near the city of Yalova, a 55-mile drive south of Istanbul.
Investigators are reportedly also preparing to ‘excavate’ a villa in Yalova province, where one of the vehicles linked to the Saudi ‘hit squad’ was seen, according to Turkish media.