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Trump administration doesn't have ambassadors in Saudi Arabia or Turkey

Trump administration doesn't have ambassadors in Saudi Arabia or Turkey

The Trump administration does not have ambassadors in Saudi Arabia or Turkey amid an escalating diplomatic crisis stemming from the alleged murder of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist in Istanbul.

The vacancies are receiving renewed attention as the White House seeks to navigate reports by Turkish authorities claiming Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents in the Istanbul's Saudi consulate. 

Saudi leadership denies any involvement with Khashoggi's disappearance.

"We need an ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt," Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up MORE (D-R.I.) said on Wednesday morning at the Defense Writers Group breakfast. 

"In a typical situation we would send a well-respected, well-regarded ambassador to deliver a very stern message about what we expect and what we had was a photo op where the Secretary of State was smiling," Reed added.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE dispatched Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to temporarily withdraw some embassy personnel in Baghdad: report Pompeo to host indoor holiday parties at State Department despite warning to employees to hold some missions virtually The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Pressure builds as UK approves COVID-19 vaccine MORE to speak to Saudi leadership this week, and has himself spoken on the phone with the crown prince and king.

Pompeo and Trump have both relayed Saudi Arabia's denials that Saudi leadership knew anything about Khashoggi's alleged murder. 

The Trump administration has yet to nominate ambassadors in 20 countries, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. 

Pompeo and lawmakers have sparred over who is to blame for the ambassadorial vacancies.

Pompeo places the onus on the Senate, which has yet to confirm more than 50 of Trump's nominees. Lawmakers point out the president still has not nominated ambassadors to key positions across the Middle East and Latin America in particular.

Ronald Neumann, the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, told The Associated Press that failing to have an ambassador to certain countries can make it appear that the U.S. does not care about that diplomatic relationship as much. 

"Countries may get grouchy without an ambassador and that may affect relations,” he told the AP. “Without an ambassador, there is a greater chance of misunderstanding and greater chance you aren’t able to persuade them to do something we want.”

The AP's diplomatic reporter Matt Lee drew attention during a fiery exchange with State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino last week, in which he pointed out there are no ambassadors to either country. 

"What's the name of the ambassador in Turkey right now?" Lee asked.

"I don't have that in front of me right now and I - Matt ..." Palladino responded.

"What's the name of the ambassador in Saudi Arabia right now?" Lee asked, pressing the issue.

"I see what you're getting at," Palladino replied. "OK. We're confident in our diplomatic—" 

"The answer is that you don't have an ambassador in either place, right?" Lee said.

Ellen Mitchell contributed reporting.