President Donald Trump discussed many of his usual talking points ― his prized border wall, Hillary Clinton’s emails, his attacks on the news media ― during his rally in Mesa, Arizona, Friday night.
However, Trump didn’t free up any time to address with his supporters the biggest news item of the night: Saudi officials confirmed U.S. resident and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death, claiming he died after getting into a fight at the Saudi consulate in Turkey earlier this month.
Trump made no mention of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was living in Washington, D.C., during his roughly hour-long speech, despite the fact that it has sparked international outrage and has dominated news headlines since the journalist first went missing 18 days ago.
Trump tells rally US finally has a president who doesn't bow to foreign leaders:— Jackie Calmes (@jackiekcalmes) October 20, 2018
"Now you have a president who's standing up for America. We're standing up for your values."
--The man who's stood beside Putin, Xi & Kim & blamed their transgressions on weak US leaders. Now Saudis.
Hours before Trump’s rally, Saudi authorities said that their initial investigation revealed that Khashoggi was killed after a discussion turned into a fight during his consulate visit. They initially had claimed that Khashoggi walked out of the consulate on foot after retrieving a marriage document.
At least 18 people had been arrested in connection with his death, a Saudi prosecutor said in the latest announcement.
Earlier Friday, Trump told reporters during a defense roundtable that he found the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death credible and called the arrests of the suspects a “good first step.”
The White House on Friday offered a more neutral response to the Saudi findings, saying the administration would “closely follow” the investigation “and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with due process.”
Statement on Saudi Arabia Investigation: pic.twitter.com/DjBdwZAGAi— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 19, 2018
During Friday’s rally, many U.S. officials, including his allies in Congress, took a harder stance on the Saudi investigation.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned the administration to be skeptical of the Saudis’ claims and called for the U.S. to launch its own investigation.
“The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water,” Corker said in a statement Friday night.
The story the Saudis have told about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance continues to change with each passing day, so we should not assume their latest story holds water.— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 20, 2018
They can undergo their own investigation, but the U.S. administration must make its own independent, credible determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder under the Global Magnitsky investigation as required by law.— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 20, 2018
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also expressed doubt in the Saudi investigation.
“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” Graham tweeted. “It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation’ as credible.”
To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement. https://t.co/am4fraUL6H— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018
First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018
It’s hard to find this latest “explanation” as credible.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018
On Oct. 10, the Washington Post reported that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, personally ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.
Turkey authorities have also leaked information to U.S. media outlets that suggest that the Saudi royal court ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
Trump on Tuesday criticized earlier reports that claimed Saudi officials were behind Khashoggi’s disappearance and compared it to the controversy surrounding the sexual assault accusations made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump told the Associated Press. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.