U.S. Department of State
Department Press Briefing
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
1:41 p.m. EDT
MR PALLADINO: Something for the top. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we are honored to have the Vice President here at the State Department tomorrow to open the second Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America. Secretary Pompeo is co-hosting this two-day event with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen and our Mexican partners, Foreign Secretary Videgaray, and the Secretary of Government Navarrete.
We also look forward to welcoming President Hernandez of Honduras, President Morales of Guatemala, and Vice President Ortiz of El Salvador. Together, we will be reviewing and strengthening our joint efforts to achieve prosperity, security, and governance in Central America.
At tomorrow’s Prosperity Day, our discussion will focus on promoting economic opportunity in the region. Our collective goal is to ensure that the people of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are able to build futures for their families, communities, and countries.
And then on Friday, Security Day, which will be hosted by the Department of Homeland Security at the United States Institute of Peace with participation by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement as well as the United States Agency for International Development, we are going to discuss joint efforts to enhance regional security cooperation, reduce illegal immigration, combat organized crime and gangs, and improve citizen security.
Our cooperation is key to a strong, vibrant, prosperous, and secure Central America and Western Hemisphere. We look forward to productive discussions with our Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran partners as we work together for the prosperity and security of our citizens.
QUESTION: Let’s start with the whole situation in Turkey with Mr. Khashoggi and the Saudis. We’ve all seen, I think – at least most of us have seen the White House statement about the calls that went out, which you’re more than welcome to repeat if you want, but I want to ask you about a specific line in one report about this that said that the U.S. had intelligence, overheard or intercepted communications, suggesting that there was a threat to Mr. Khashoggi should he go. Is that correct?
MR PALLADINO: I’ll get to that question, and I’ll answer it directly, Matt, thank you. I would just – I would start at the top by saying, as the President has conveyed, both the Vice President and the Secretary of State, we – the United States is concerned by Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. And we can confirm that Ambassador Bolton and Jared Kushner have spoken to the crown prince yesterday, and we can confirm as well that the Secretary of State then had a follow-up call with the crown prince to reiterate our request for more information. We continue to call for a transparent investigation, and we’re going to continue to monitor this situation.
As to your specific question regarding intelligence, I would say that although I cannot comment on intelligence matters, I can say definitively the United States had no advanced knowledge of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
QUESTION: Well, okay, that’s a bit different than – I mean, did you have any advance knowledge that there might be some kind of threat to him should he go into the consulate in Istanbul?
MR PALLADINO: We had no advanced knowledge.
QUESTION: Okay. If you had had – based on that report that you did have knowledge, there was a lot of talk about how the administration, if it did have such information, would have been required to have warned him – Mr. Khashoggi – about that. Is that your understanding of the “No Double Standard” rule or regulation?
MR PALLADINO: It’s a hypothetical question and —
QUESTION: Well, in any case —
MR PALLADINO: Without going into – and we’re not going to discuss —
QUESTION: Forget about this case. Let’s just talk about if the United States Government has information about a threat to an American citizen or American resident, are you required to tell them about it?
MR PALLADINO: I would need to understand clearly before commenting upon the “No Double Standard”, what applies to us. And so I know it definitely applies to American citizens, but I don’t want to go into any further speculation on what it stands for.
QUESTION: So you’re not sure if it would apply – if it would have applied in this case?
MR PALLADINO: What I would say is we’ve seen the report; and although I can’t go into intelligence matters, I can definitively say that we had no knowledge in advance of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.
MR PALLADINO: I would say that we continue to see conflicting reports on what has transpired, and the United States – our position – it is absolutely essential that Turkish authorities, with full and transparent support from the Government of Saudi Arabia, that they are able to conduct a thorough investigation and officially release the results of that investigation once it’s concluded.
QUESTION: Thank you. After John Bolton and Jared Kushner spoke to MBS, why did the Secretary feel it was necessary to follow on with his own phone call? I mean, Jared has a close relationship with the crown prince, so what was conveyed in that phone call that hadn’t been conveyed in the previous one? And was there any sense of a timeline or a threat put forward that if this investigation isn’t concluded by a certain time then there will be action taken, or a sense of urgency or sort of deeper concern expressed if this investigation goes on, drags on?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not going to be able to provide anything beyond the readouts that the White House provided on the underlying content. Those are private diplomatic conversations. I would say that the United States Government wants to understand what’s going on and to express the importance of receiving a full accounting, and understanding in a very transparent and conclusive way what has transpired, that we’d like to get to the bottom of this, and we will continue to call for that.
QUESTION: There have been reports that the Turks have either an audio or a video purportedly showing the exact moment of his killing. Have they shared those, any sort of audio or video with the United States?
MR PALLADINO: State Department senior officials and diplomats have spoken with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Government of Turkey through diplomatic channels about this matter. And from the Secretary of State on down, we have been engaged. I am not going to be able to go any further into the underlying content of those private conversations.
MR PALLADINO: In the case of what we’re talking about in Turkey, we’re calling for a full and transparent investigation to understand what’s transpired. We are – we are trying to get to the bottom of it and we’re looking for answers.
But isn’t this kind of the second round of inquiries that the U.S. has made to the Saudis? Didn’t last week Deputy Secretary Sullivan and Secretary Pompeo raise this with the Saudi ambassador? And I’m just curious – if so, is this kind of follow-up because of more things that you’re hearing from the Turks in terms of their investigation, or is it because you haven’t gotten answers to your initial inquiries?
MR PALLADINO: We are – we – the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State have all spoken publicly on this now and expressed our concern. This is a journalist we’re talking about, one that is known to many of us. And so we want – we want to see a transparent investigation and we would like to see official results of that investigation, and we’re calling for cooperation in that matter.
QUESTION: How closely – I’m sorry – again, sorry if you addressed this, but how closely are you working with the Turks? And obviously they’re investigating; are they sharing the results of their investigation with you?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not going to – we are working – from the Secretary on down, we are very engaged on this issue. Senior officials, diplomats are speaking to both the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the Government of Turkey, and we’re using diplomatic channels. We’re going to continue to do so. The Vice President earlier today made comments that the United States stands ready to assist in any way, and I’ll stop with that.
QUESTION: When he says – just one more, please. When he says that the U.S. stands ready to assist, obviously because Mr. Khashoggi is not a U.S. citizen or, I think at this point, even a legal permanent resident, there’s no jurisdiction. But have you expressed to the Saudis that you would appreciate an invitation to assist in the investigation or are you just kind of standing by and waiting for them to act?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not going to go and characterize the underlying nature of our diplomatic conversations at this time.
QUESTION: Well, no, but it’s a question about whether the U.S. is interested, and I know that you have to legally, according to international law, you would have to get an official invitation from the Turks. Is it your desire to join the investigation, or it’s really just you’re here to assist if they need it?
MR PALLADINO: I mean, that really is more of a question for the Vice President’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not from the State Department.
QUESTION: Can you – all right. Because Heather mentioned the FBI yesterday very briefly and I just want to – have the Turks made a request for FBI assistance?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not going to be able to go into the details on private conversations.
QUESTION: And then in terms of your high-level diplomatic talks, other than the calls you – other than the calls that you’ve read out here, presumably you have people on the ground in both Ankara, Istanbul – in Ankara, Istanbul, and Riyadh all pushing this, right?
MR PALLADINO: Our embassies overseas, absolutely.
MR PALLADINO: But we have diplomatic staff, senior diplomatic officials —
QUESTION: I’m sure you do.
MR PALLADINO: — very much – very much in charge. And yesterday Heather spoke at the top as well about the need for the State Department to get its full team on the field, and we definitely would reiterate our request for our colleagues in the Senate and their assistance in fielding our full camp.
QUESTION: Significant reporting out there that Turkish officials believe that this is the responsibility of the Saudi Government, and the UK foreign secretary yesterday said if these reports are true, it would change the relationship with Saudi Arabia. Does the U.S. share that view with the UK Government?
MR PALLADINO: I’ll restate that – first of all, we’re not going to engage in hypothetical questions. What the United States is calling for – we don’t want to prejudge anything here, frankly. We want the official investigation to take place and we want to see the results of that investigation. So we are going to wait until the facts come out, and reiterate our call. We would like a thorough and a transparent investigation.
Yesterday I asked Heather about the young American student, Lara Alqasem. Have you spoken to the Israelis since then? She seems to be – apparently she’s free to come back, but she doesn’t want to do that. She wants to enter the country and resume her studies. Have you spoken to her, or have you spoken to the Israelis? And can you give us an update on this?
MR PALLADINO: I have no updates on dialogue between the United States and Israel since Heather’s briefing yesterday. But I can reiterate what was said from the podium yesterday, that out of respect for Ms. Alqasem’s privacy, there frankly – there’s not much we’re able to say. But we can say that we’re very much aware of her case and that our embassy is providing consular assistance to her.
MR PALLADINO: As a general principle, we value freedom of expression, even in cases where we don’t agree with the political views expressed, and this is such a case. Our strong opposition to boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel is well known and, as Heather said yesterday, Israel is a sovereign nation that can determine who enters.
QUESTION: Just one quick one, Rob. I notice that Zal Khalilzad, the envoy for Afghanistan, is going to be making a trip to Saudi this week, or maybe even today, I’m not sure, but – I know this isn’t necessarily in his official lane, but will he be meeting with any Saudi officials on this particular instance or will he be raising it in his meetings on —
MR PALLADINO: The purpose of Ambassador Khalilzad —
QUESTION: I know what the purpose is.
MR PALLADINO: You know what the purpose is.
QUESTION: I know what the purpose is, but —
MR PALLADINO: And that’s the purpose for his meetings as well, okay? So that’s – it would be limited to his mandate.
QUESTION: So that means no?
MR PALLADINO: It means no