In what was the strongest repudiation yet of the Saudi government's suspected involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Vice President Mike Pence warned on Thursday during a brief huddle with reporters on a tarmac in Colorado that "there will be consequences" if Khashoggi was murdered, and that the US will not "solely rely" on the results of investigations organized by the Saudi and Turkish governments.
Pence's claim that the US won't solely rely on the results of these investigations echoed remarks made earlier by Secretary of State Mike Pence, who spoke at the White House Thursday after briefing President Trump on his trip to Riyadh and Ankara. Pence also said the allegations about Khashoggi's killing, if true, would be an affront to press freedoms around the world.
"If what has been alleged occurred, if an innocent person lost their life at the hands of violence, that's to be condemned," Pence said.
"If a journalist in particular lost their life at the hands of violence, that's an affront to the free and independent press around the world," he added. "And there will be consequences."
Pence's comments are notable for the utter lack of credulity regarding the Saudi's official denials that Khashoggi was killed at their embassy. While Turkish investigators say they have found evidence that Khashoggi was likely killed at the consulate during their investigation (and also purportedly possess an audio recording of what was allegedly a brutal murder), the Saudis have stuck to their official denials and said Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after arriving.
Not to be outdone, President Trump adopted a slightly more severe tone Thursday afternoon when he said consequences for Khashoggi's death "will need to be very severe" if the Saudis are found to have orchestrated the murder. Trump acknowledged for the first time that Khashoggi is "probably dead." He hasn't been seen or heard from since Oct. 2, when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a marriage license. All of this is bad news for Saudi Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, an intelligence official whom the Saudis are reportedly planning to scapegoat for the killing.