President Trump has criticised the global uproar over Saudi Arabia’s suspected role in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, likening the situation to the media storm surrounding the sexual assault allegations levelled against Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Mr Trump told the Associated Press in an interview.
“I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
Mr Trump repeatedly maintained his support for his Supreme Court pick, even after several women came forward to accuse Mr Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct – allegations he vehemently denied.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr Trump said: “I have to find out what happened,” suggesting that he was giving Saudi Arabia more leeway than other US allies.
Mr Trump has spoken to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week and said that both had denied any knowledge of what happened to Mr Khashoggi, who has not been seen since he entered their country’s consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.
In Turkey earlier on Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the Associated Press that police investigators searching the Saudi Consulate had found evidence that Mr Khashoggi was killed there.
The president said that his own comment on Monday about possible “rogue killers” behind Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance was informed by his “feeling” from his conversation with Salman, and that the King did not use the term.
Also on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the king and crown prince in Riyadh, and said later that the kingdom had made a serious commitment to hold senior leaders and officials accountable if implicated in Mr Khashoggi’s death.
Mr Trump said he hoped the Saudis’ own investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance would be concluded in less than a week.
While other leaders have debated severing or rethinking ties with the Saudi government in the wake of the journalist’s disappearance, Mr Trump has ruled out such a move, pointing to the lucrative arms deal between the two counties and suggesting any reneging could damage the US economy.
Agencies contributed to this report
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