ADDS MORE TRUMP QUOTES FROM WHITE HOUSE IN GRAFS 11-13
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington has investigators in Turkey working to determine the fate of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a claim denied by Turkey.
"We're being very tough. And we have investigators over there and we're working with Turkey, and frankly we're working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened," Trump told the morning news program Fox & Friends. "He went in and it doesn't look like he came out. It certainly doesn't look like he's around."
But Turkish diplomatic sources denied Trump’s assertion.
“The information on the U.S. appointment of an investigator is not true,” sources who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media, told Anadolu Agency.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, has not been heard from since Oct. 2 when he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, amid speculation he was killed by Saudi authorities.
"I don't like it with respect to reporters. It's a terrible, terrible precedent. We can't let it happen," Trump said.
The president said Wednesday he has been in contact with Saudi officials at the highest levels shortly before the Washington Post reported Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.
The newspaper cited U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan.
Asked about the report, Trump said "it would be a very sad thing" if it were true.
"We will probably know in the very short future," Trump said. "I have to find out what happened, and we're probably getting closer than you might think. But I have to find out what happened."
Trump later appear to cast doubt Khashoggi would be found alive.
“What happened is a terrible thing, assuming that happened. Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised but somehow I doubt it,” he told reporters, but continued to oppose a possible halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia if Riyadh is found to have killed the journalist.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on Wednesday demanded a halt in military aid to Saudi Arabia until Khashoggi is “returned alive.”
Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of Khashoggi fate while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S. and the UK — have expressed their desire that the matter should be elucidated as soon as possible.
Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2 with his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, but was not seen after entering the diplomatic building.
On the same day, 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was also inside, police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.