'Worst Cover-up Ever': Trump Slams Saudi Arabia Over Khashoggi Killing

'They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups,' says Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey during a bill signing ceremony  at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2018
\ LEAH MILLIS/ REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Saudi authorities staged the "worst cover-up ever" in the killing of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi this month.

Asked by a reporter in the White House Oval Office how the Khashoggi killing could have happened, Trump said: "They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups."

>> Like a mafia boss, Erdogan plans to milk the Khashoggi investigation for all it’s worth | Analysis

"There should have never been an execution or a cover-up, because it should have never happened," Trump told reporters. "I would say it was a total fiasco from day one," he added.

Khashoggi's death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 has caused global outrage and strained relations between Riyadh and Washington. Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was a U.S. resident and columnist for The Washington Post. 

Trump's comments about the incident in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with "very severe" consequences and mentioning possible economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks highlighting the country's role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.

On Tuesday, Trump said the Khashoggi matter was handled badly by Saudi officials. "Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up. And they had the worst cover-up ever," Trump said.

>> A timeline of Saudi Arabia's shifting narratives on Jamal Khashoggi's death

Riyadh initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi's fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate, a reaction that has met with skepticism from several Western governments, straining their relations with the world's biggest oil exporter.

The kingdom has since changed parts of its official narrative about the killing, further deepening international concern.