Pence vows US response to Khashoggi death: Those responsible will be held accountable

Pence vows US response to Khashoggi death: Those responsible will be held accountable
© Anna Moneymaker

Vice President Pence on Tuesday vowed the U.S. would respond to the "brutal murder" of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling it an "assault on a free and independent press."

Pence said CIA Director Gina Haspel is in Turkey "reviewing the evidence" in the case and will brief President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE upon returning to the U.S., after which the president would decide on a response.

"We're going to follow the facts. We're going to demand that those responsible are held accountable," Pence said at an event sponsored by The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a contributing columnist.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vice president said an explosive speech on Tuesday from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accusing the Saudis of carrying out a coordinated operation to murder Khashoggi only "underscores the determination of our administration to find out what happened here."

"The word from President Erdoğan this morning that this brutal murder was premeditated — preplanned days in advance — flies in the face of earlier assertions that had been made by the Saudi regime," said Pence.

Pence's comments highlight the intense pressure facing Saudi Arabia to be more forthcoming about Khashoggi's death and on Trump to unequivocally reject the Saudi account.

Trump thus far has sent mixed messages about whether he accepts the Saudi version of events and whether he will punish Riyadh in response.

The president on Monday told USA Today he thinks Khashoggi's killing was a "plot gone awry," which is consistent with Saudi Arabia's explanation, even after saying he is "not satisfied" with the Saudi's account. 

Pence refused to say what measures the U.S. might take to respond to Saudi Arabia, but said the decision would be "based upon the values of the American people and our vital national interests."

He noted the U.S.-Saudi relationship "represents an enormously important alliance in the region ... to confront the leading state sponsor of terrorism in Iran."