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Turkish forensic and investigation officers arrive at the Saudi consul general's residence. Photo: Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump says the U.S. has requested audio and video relating to the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, per AP.

The backdrop: The WSJ and NY Times have published gruesome reports of Khashoggi's alleged interrogation, based on anonymous Turkish sources who say it was captured on audio. Per the NYT report, Saudi agents "severed his fingers" during an interrogation and "later beheaded and dismembered him." The WSJ report says Khashoggi was "beaten up, drugged and killed." Trump has so far seemed to accept claims from Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince that they don't know what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and U.S. resident, and are investigating.

The latest from Turkey

Turkish investigators today entered the Saudi Consul General's residence in Istanbul after being denied access yesterday. The consul general has returned to Saudi Arabia, been fired, and is reportedly the first Saudi official "under investigation."

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that among the evidence being reviewed are "toxic materials" from the consulate that had been painted over.
  • Meanwhile, a stream of details about the case have come from anonymous Turkish officials. Those include passport scans of seven of the 15 members of the Saudi team reportedly sent to the consulate, and information linking five members of the team directly to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS).
  • The most grisly details reportedly come from the audio. A senior Turkish official told the NYT it indicates "the agents seized Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him, eventually cutting off his fingers" while the consul general fretted he would get "in trouble." It's unclear how Turkey obtained it.

Between the lines: Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute says with the leaks, "Turkey is making a case that there’s no easy way out of the murder for Saudis. It took place on Turkish soil and targeted a journalist with close ties to Erdogan: There’s a price."

The latest from Saudi Arabia

The Saudi position appears to be that, 15 days later, MBS and King Salman still don't know what happened inside their consulate.

  • Riyadh reacted angrily to threats of sanctions over Khashoggi's disappearance, pledging "greater action" in response.
  • David Ignatius of the Washington Post writes that MBS "is said to have alternated between dark brooding and rampaging anger as [he] looked for someone to blame."

What to watch: It was widely reported yesterday that the Saudis were crafting a statement admitting Khashoggi was killed in their custody but insisting it happened during an interrogation that was not authorized from the top. That statement hasn't come. MBS originally claimed Khashoggi left the embassy unharmed.

The latest from Washington

From Trump's comments to reporters...

  • On why he hasn't sent the FBI to help investigate: "Well he wasn't a citizen of this country for one thing. And you don't know whether or not we have... I'm not going to tell you."
  • On whether he has asked for the audio and video evidence: "We have asked for it, if it exists... I'm not sure yet that it exists — probably does, possibly does."
  • However, the WSJ reports that "Turkish officials said they shared... the details of an audio recording with both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Turkey's president and foreign minister today in Ankara, a day after meeting the king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. In statements, he has emphasized the strength of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and said Saudi Arabia should be given time to conduct an investigation.

Go deeper: Analysis of the latest from Saudi Arabia, on our Pro Rata podcast

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

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