Skip to main content

Trump slams Saudi Khashoggi plot, US announces visa sanctions

US President Donald Trump heaped scorn on ally Saudi Arabia, saying the operation that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “very bad” and the cover-up in weeks afterward was the “worst … ever.”
U.S. President Donald Trump gives remarks during the White House State Leadership Day Conference for local officials of Alaska, Hawaii and California at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis - RC1C2D3E9E00

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump heaped scorn on ally Saudi Arabia today, calling the Oct. 2 plot that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul “very bad” and attempts for weeks afterward to dissemble about it “the worst cover-up ever.”

“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups,” an exasperated Trump told the White House press pool in the Oval Office today. “They had the worst cover-up ever.”

“Whoever thought of that idea I think is in big trouble and they should be in big trouble,” Trump said.

Trump’s considerably tougher tone on Riyadh came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that as a first step, the United States would be revoking the visas of those Saudis it has identified as being part of the operation, and would explore the possibility of imposing Global Magnitsky Act sanctions. 

“We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible” in Khashoggi’s killing, including from Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services, royal court and other government ministries, Pompeo told journalists at the State Department late this afternoon. The administration is moving to revoke their visas and put them on visa watch lists, while it continues to “seek all relevant facts.”

“These penalties will not be the last word,” Pompeo stressed. “Neither the president or I are happy with this situation.”

Twenty-one Saudi suspects in Khashoggi's death will have their visas revoked or be ineligible for a US visa, a State Department spokesperson later said.

Pompeo declined to say if he believed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was ultimately responsible for authorizing the plot to abduct or kill Khashoggi, who had written columns for the Washington Post critical of Salman’s war in Yemen and of intolerance for dissent and free expression at home.

Trump, who sent CIA Director Gina Haspel to Turkey this week to learn what evidence the Turks have uncovered, said he expected to have more information soon. But already, he seemed increasingly exasperated with Riyadh.

"We have people over in Saudi Arabia now. We have top intelligence people in Turkey, and we're going to see what we have,” Trump said. “I'll know a lot tomorrow.”

“In terms of what we ultimately do, I’m going to leave it very much — in conjunction with me — I’m going to leave it up to Congress,” Trump said.

“I think I’ll know everything in a short period of time,” Trump said. “I want to see the facts first.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial