State Department: Pompeo Waiting for Recording of Khashoggi's Killing

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo / Getty Images
October 19, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has not reviewed recordings pertaining to the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, a State Department spokeswoman said Thursday night.

In a statement from the State Department Press Office, spokesperson Heather Nauert said "Secretary Pompeo has neither heard a tape nor has he seen a transcript related to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance."

The comment follows growing certainty that Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and Saudi critic, was murdered in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. President Donald Trump said Thursday that it "certainly looks" as if Khashoggi was killed. He declined to place the blame on the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman but said if Saudi Arabia is found responsible the consequences "will have to be very severe."

The State Department statement contradicts a Turkish senior official, who according to a Friday report from ABC News, said Pompeo heard the tapes. The official spoke to ABC News on  condition of anonymity.

Trump requested the tapes earlier this week. "We’ve asked for it … if it exists," he said.

Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey this week, meeting with leaders in each country and collecting information about what may have happened. Earlier Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed to reporters that Turkish intelligence had not shared recordings pertaining to Khashoggi’s death.

Pompeo and Cavusoglu’s comments follow a day of widespread media reports about the content of alleged audio recordings. The New York Times published an article citing a single Turkish official who claimed tapes confirmed Khashoggi’s murder. Another in the Middle East Eye claimed the killing took exactly seven minutes. An ABC News article reported that a friend of Khashoggi’s claimed unnamed Turkish "government and security officials" told him Khashoggi died in a "barbaric" way.

A separate report from the New York Times claims the Saudi crown prince plans to admit to Khashoggi’s death, but blame it on a rogue intelligence official.

As of Friday morning, no tapes or transcripts had been released or reviewed by non-Turkish intelligence officials or journalists, according to U.S. officials.