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WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States has asked Turkey for any audio or video evidence it may have related to the disappearance of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but was not sure whether any such evidence exists.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, denied he was trying to give cover to Saudi leaders over Khashoggi’s disappearance, a day after he cautioned against assuming Saudi leaders were guilty in the case until proven innocent.
“I just want to find out what’s happening,” he said. “I’m not giving cover at all.”
Trump said he was waiting for a full report on Khashoggi’s disappearance from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he returns from his trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where Pompeo met with leaders to discuss reports Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Asked whether the United States was seeking audio or video evidence that Turkey reportedly has, Trump said: “We have asked for it, if it exists ... I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.
“I’ll have a full report on that from Mike (Pompeo) when he comes back. ... That’s going to be the first question I ask,” he said.
Pompeo has said Riyadh should be given a few more days to complete an investigation into the disappearance of the journalist, a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and his body removed. Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording indicating Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
The Saudis have strongly denied those allegations but U.S. media outlets have reported they will acknowledge he was killed in a botched interrogation. Trump has speculated without providing evidence that “rogue killers” could be responsible. (Reporting by Steve Holland Writing by David Alexander Editing by Bill Trott)