Turkey

Khashoggi crisis: The "rogue killers" escape

Saudi officials today outside the consulate in Istanbul. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

A day after President Trump's "60 Minutes" interview, in which he said there'd be "severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia were responsible for the alleged murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, he appeared to give the Saudis an out:

"The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. ... It sounded to me like these could have been rogue killers, who knows?"
— Trump to reporters Monday

Between the lines: That a team of "rogue killers" would infiltrate the Saudi consulate and murder an opponent of the regime seems a pretty far-fetched explanation, particularly as the Washington Post has reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself sought to lure Khashoggi back to the kingdom for capture. But Trump isn't the only one who seems to be offering the Saudis a graceful way out.

Trump says Saudi king denied "any knowledge" about Khashoggi

President Trump tweeted Monday morning that he had spoken to — and will send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with — King Salman of Saudi Arabia about Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist suspected to have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"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 big picture: The Saudi government has agreed to allow Turkish authorities to search the consulate as early as Monday afternoon, per the WashPost. The escalating international rift has massive financial implications and has caused a number of companies to back away from doing business with the Saudis until more answers are provided.