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Pompeo briefs Trump after trip to Saudi Arabia, Turkey

Last Updated Oct 18, 2018 12:40 PM EDT

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he told President Trump to give the Saudis a few more days to complete their investigation into what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after Pompeo returned from a whirlwind trip to Turkey and Saudi Arabia. 

Pompeo, speaking to reporters for about three minutes and taking just two questions, emphasized the importance of waiting for all the facts, and the value of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The secretary of state's trip appeared not to have altered his wait-and-see approach to the Khashoggi situation, and Pompeo did not say whether he believes Khashoggi is dead. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey earlier this month.

"I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that so that we too have a complete understanding of the facts surrounding that at which point we can make decisions about how or if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi," Pompeo said. 

"I think it's important for us all to remember too, we have a long, since 1932, a long strategic relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the secretary of state continued. "They continue to be an important counterterrorism partner. They have custody of the two holy sites. They are an important strategic alliance of the United States, and we need to be mindful of that as well."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced after meeting with Mr. Trump and Pompeo Thursday that he would not be attending the "Davos in the Desert" summit in Saudi Arabia, although he cited no reason. 

Mr. Trump sent the secretary of state to speak with the Saudis and Turks about the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey earlier this month. Mr. Trump and Pompeo have been reluctant to criticize Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the Saudi relationship for the U.S. economy. Pompeo pushed back against the assertion Thursday that he is giving the Saudis the benefit of the doubt.

"I keep hearing that we're giving them some benefit of the doubt," Pompeo said. "They're going to do an investigation. And when the investigation comes out we'll evaluate it. It's not about benefit of the doubt, it's that it's -- reasonable to give them a handful of days more to complete it so they get it right." 

The president and Pompeo have said they want to wait until the Saudis and Turks conclude their investigations into what happened to the journalist. 

Mr. Trump has claimed that he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia, although he boasted during the campaign that he likes the Saudis and they've spent millions on his apartments. 

"Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them," Mr. Trump said at a rally in 2015. "They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."