Trump sending Pompeo to meet Saudi king over case of missing journalist
(CBSNews) -- President Trump on Monday said Saudi Arabia's King Salman denies any knowledge about what happened to Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, adding that he is "immediately" sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meeting with the king.
The Trump administration has sustained criticism in recent days since Khashoggi's disappearance for its reluctance to criticize Saudi Arabia, and for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's intention to still attend a conference in Saudi Arabia when many private sector entities have backed out. Mr. Trump did tell CBS News' "60 Minutes" there would be "severe punishment" if Khashoggi is dead and the Saudis are found responsible.
The Post reported that Turkey claims to have audio of Khashoggi's death after he entered the Saudi embassy in Turkey earlier this month.
Mr. Trump, as he did in a tweet Monday, has highlighted that Khashoggi is not a U.S. citizen, although he is a lawful permanent resident in Virginia.
"Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened 'to our Saudi Arabian citizen.' He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!" the president tweeted Monday.
Much is at stake in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Mr. Trump stands by the billions of dollars worth of U.S. arms sales to the Saudis, pointing out that such deals mean jobs for Americans and a boost for the American economy. Mr. Trump told "60 Minutes" that he didn't want to halt the arms sales.
"I tell you what I don't want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these com-- I don't want to hurt jobs," Mr. Trump said. "I don't want to lose an order like that. There are other ways of-- punishing, to use a word that's a pretty harsh word, but it's true."
It's not clear yet when Pompeo might go to meet the Saudi king.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have had much harsher words for the Saudis. Sen. Marco Rubio told CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that Congress won't be sticking with the Saudis if they are responsible for Khashoggi's death.
"I can just tell you that in Congress right now, there is no pro-Saudi element that's going to stick with our relationship with Saudi Arabia as it's currently structured if, in fact, they lured this man into this consulate, killed him, and then cut up his body and send a team to go into that country to kill him in the first place," Rubio said.