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US to revoke visas for Saudi officials over Khashoggi killing

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump: NY Times report on North Korean missile bases inaccurate Pompeo accuses Newsweek of 'helping' Iran 'spread lies' Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases MORE announced Tuesday that the U.S. has taken steps to punish those it suspects of being involved in the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, including revoking visas.

“We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible, including those in the intelligence services, the royal court, the foreign ministry and other Saudi ministries who we suspect to have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s death,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “We are taking appropriate actions, which include revoking visas, entering visa lookouts and other measures.”

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Pompeo also said the State and Treasury departments are looking at the possibility of Global Magnitsky sanctions meant to target those responsible for gross human rights violations, a step that had been requested by the Senate. 

“These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States," Pompeo said. "We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable. We’re making very clear the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.”

Pompeo did not immediately provide more information on the visa revocations, including how many visas were revoked.

“There’s not a lot more I can say about it, other than to say this is certainly not the last step that we will take,” he said.

The announcement came shortly after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE called the kingdom’s efforts to hide Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul the “worst cover-up ever,” stepping up his rhetoric as frustrations directed at Riyadh grow.

“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “They had the worst cover-up ever.”

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist living in Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government, was killed earlier this month when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

The Saudis spent weeks insisting Khashoggi left the consulate alive, before acknowledging Friday that he was killed inside the building.

The Saudi government says that Khashoggi died during a physical altercation with officials who sought to bring him back to the kingdom. The officials acted without approval, the Saudis say. But Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered by a 15-person Saudi hit squad that included a forensic doctor wielding a bone saw.

On Tuesday morning, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered his most extensive comments yet on the issue, saying Khashoggi was murdered in a pre-planned operation directed by top Saudi officials.

Pompeo vowed to work with both Congress and U.S. allies on further responses after the administration verifies information surrounding Khashoggi’s death.

But even as Pompeo announced steps to punish those responsible for Khashoggi’s death, he stressed that the U.S.-Saudi alliance remains in place.

“We continue to maintain a strong partnership with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Neither the president nor I are happy with this situation. Our shared strategic interest with Saudi Arabia will remain. We continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi.”

Pompeo also sidestepped a question about whether the administration continues to have faith in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying only that the United States is continuing to gather facts.

Regional experts and U.S. lawmakers have expressed skepticism over whether Khashoggi would have been killed without the prince’s approval.

“We’re learning the facts,” Pompeo said. “And as facts unfold, as we continue to develop our understanding of the individuals that were responsible for this, who not only executed it, but led and were involved and were connected to it, the world should know that we intend to hold those individuals responsibility.”

Updated 5:23 p.m.