WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday described the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a botched operation and a "bad original concept" as his administration took its first, careful steps toward punishing the Saudis by moving to revoke the visas of the suspects.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said the entire operation was a fiasco.
"They had a very bad original concept," Trump said. "It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups. Somebody really messed up, and they had the worst cover-up ever."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move to revoke visas was just a first step.
Visa records are confidential and Pompeo was not more specific about whom the revocations would affect, but the State Department later said 21 "Saudi suspects" would have visas revoked or would be declared ineligible to enter the U.S.
"These penalties will not be the last word on this matter," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.
The administration "will continue to hold those responsible accountable. We're making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, with violence," he said. "Neither the president or I am happy with this situation."
Still, Pompeo stressed the strategic importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
"We continue to view as achievable the twin imperative of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi," Pompeo said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia must identify those who ordered the murder of Khashoggi and turn over the suspects for trial, the Turkish president said Tuesday in remarks that carefully ratcheted up pressure on a country that is a source of investment for Turkey, but also a rival for influence in the Middle East.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a sharp rebuttal of Saudi Arabia's widely criticized account that the writer for The Washington Post died accidentally in a brawl, saying Saudi officials had planned the killing for days.
Some analysts believe Turkey is also calculating whether it can capitalize on outrage over the killing to extract political capital from the world's largest oil exporter without alienating it altogether.
Addressing ruling party lawmakers in parliament, Erdogan used the word "murder" 15 times to describe Khashoggi's death after the writer entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 for paperwork related to his marriage plans.
Erdogan also cast Turkey in the role of global statesman, echoing calls for full Saudi accountability from Western allies whose relationships with the Turkish government have often been edgy in the past.
"To blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community," he said. Earlier, Turkey's foreign minister said it would cooperate with any international or U.N. probe into the killing, a nod to transparency that only seemed to accentuate an emerging pariah status for Saudi Arabia.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stood by his earlier call for an independent and transparent investigation, said Farhan Haq, a deputy spokesman for the world body. Haq reiterated that Guterres can initiate a probe if key parties request it or if there is a legislative mandate from a U.N. body.
"Turkey is playing the long game. And today's speech is part of a very careful — in my opinion — escalation strategy," said Ahmet Kasim Han, an international relations analyst at Altinbas University in Istanbul.
"Turkish authorities seem to be concentrated on turning this into a multilateral issue" because they don't want "to be left alone with Saudi Arabia on all of this," he said.
Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, speculated that Saudi Arabia could now be vulnerable to pressure, including from the U.S., to end a boycott of Turkey-backed Qatar.
"As far as Erdogan is concerned, he will use this incident to try and get as much mileage and concessions out of it, to the advantage of Turkey, as he possibly can," Yahya said.
Even in the face of ugly details of Khashoggi's slaying, Trump has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis to be vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
Members of Congress have demanded that sanctions be imposed on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, who lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. and wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The writer, who was a contributor to The Washington Post, vanished Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey, where he went to pick up documents for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.
Turkish officials say that a Saudi team of 15 men tortured, killed and dismembered the writer and that Saudi officials had planned the killing for days. Saudi officials — after weeks of denials — now concede that he died, but they say it happened accidentally in a fight at the consulate.
"It was a total fiasco," Trump said. "The process was no good. The execution was no good. And the cover-up, if you want to call it that, was certainly no good."
PIERSON, Iowa -- Little Pierson, population 353, showed determination this week in rededicating its World War I memorial, one of 100 across the country chosen for a program sponsored by the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago to commemorate 100 memorials during the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The 12-foot tall granite obelisk capped with the globe and an eagle cost $4,000 to build a century ago, no easy feat.
With help from the Pritzker Museum, members of the American Legion Post 291 of Pierson joined with locals and, in receiving a $15,000 grant from Missouri River Historical Development, set to upgrade the memorial site on Main Street, work which has been largely completed in advance of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the end of "The Great War," on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, next month.
U.S. Army Sgt. (Retired) Chris Weinreich, past commander and current adjutant serving Post 291, directed a program on Saturday at Kingsley-Pierson Middle School that detailed how 95 young men from Pierson served their country in World War I, three of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice. Family members of two of those "Gold Star" veterans -- Clinton E. Dentlinger and Charles E. Law -- were present to accept "Gold Star" banners.
Bonnie Saxen, of Pierson, came forward for her friend Dixie Soligo, of Austin, Texas, whose great uncle, Harrison F. Pedersen, was killed in July 1918 in France. The local American Legion bears his name.
That wouldn't be the last young men Soligo's family would lose in time of war, Weinreich said. Both of Soligo's brothers, Kelly Petersen and Mark Petersen, died while serving during the Vietnam War. I reached Soligo at her home in Austin to visit about her family's duty and sacrifice for our country.
Kelly Petersen, 20, died June 23, 1967 in an auto accident at New Lisbon, Wisconsin, while on duty with the 185th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Iowa Air National Guard.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Mark Petersen, who was serving in Vietnam at the time of his brother's death, came home for Kelly's funeral, an occasion Dixie recalled only for the way in which her family learned of his death. "When Kelly died, I remember funeral director Herb Michaelson came to our house in Pierson and Mom immediately thought it was Mark (who had died)," she said.
As the lone-surviving son of Carson and Dorothy (Pedersen) Petersen, Dixie, who was 15 at the time, didn't believe Mark had to return to Vietnam.
"He could have stayed home as sole-surviving son, but he chose to go back to Vietnam as he only had six months left in the service," Dixie said. "Plus, he said he needed to go back to be with his platoon."
Mark Petersen, 23, was killed by rifle fire in action at Quang Nam, Vietnam, on Nov. 19, 1967, four months after his return overseas.
The Petersen brothers were buried adjacent to one another at Pierson's Greenwood Cemetery. Sister Dixie said her mother and father, who died in 2005 and 2010, respectively, were buried next to their sons.
"My dad served in World War II and I only remember him saying he was in the artillery," said Dixie of her father, who farmed and then drove truck. "Ironically, Mark never talked much about it either."
Carson Petersen served in the U.S. Army from 1942 through late 1945. He earned a Purple Heart and didn't meet his oldest child, Mark, until one day before Mark celebrated his first birthday. Father met and held son for the first time on Oct. 15, 1945, upon Dad's honorable discharge from service in World War II.
Their sacrifices, and that of Kelly Petersen, Harrison Pedersen, the hundreds of others from tiny Pierson and throughout Siouxland and the nation, are remembered, especially around Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, the 100th anniversary of which approaches in less than three weeks.
The rededicated World War I obelisk on Main Street in Pierson stopped visitors on a sun-splashed Saturday, causing men such as David Law and Dennis Van Zee to share stories about service, sacrifice and the freedoms we enjoy due, in part, to the names that will soon be illuminated, one of 100 memorials to receive special attention 100 years after the fact.
Dixie Soligo is grateful for the efforts nationally and those shown in her hometown, a place she left 44 years ago, a place that remains forever attached to her heart.
"When Mark was killed, it was Marines officers who came to the house," she said. "I know it was devastating. My mom was so soft-hearted; Dad probably had a tougher time showing that sadness. For me, though, I think my parents had to keep going. They had to for me, their last-surviving child."
SIOUX CITY -- As early voting in Iowa continues at a brisk pace, multiple security measures implemented by state and county officials ensure the ballots will be counted properly, state Secretary of State Paul Pate said.
Pate stopped in Woodbury, Plymouth and Sioux counties to talk to local election officials and reporters about the state's stepped up security efforts, which include training for poll workers, new technology and increased transparency.
Iowans also should feel reassured that local poll workers are their neighbors.
"That's why you can count on the fact that nobody from Russia or anyone else will be hacking the counting of votes," he told the Journal.
Pate noted Iowans in all counties vote on paper ballots and voting machines are not connected to the Internet, eliminating the risk of cyber attacks. Working through the state Office of the Chief Information Officer, the secretary's office also has provided network security tools at no cost to local election offices.
Since 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and OCIO have regularly scanned the government networks, which have been equipped with intrusion detection senors. Iowa requires two-factor authentication to tighten control to the voter registration system.
"I wanted to make sure the counties had the same protections as the state does," said Pate, Republican running for re-election this year.
Ballots and election equipment also are secured with tamper-evident seals and stored in a secure location. On Election Day, ballots and machines are closely watched by trained precinct workers, who follow a "chain of custody" that's recorded and verified.
After the Nov. 6 election, all 99 counties also will conduct post-election audits. One precinct per county will be selected at random, and a hand count will be conducted to make sure the results from the voting machines are accurate.
Iowa is among the majority of states to adopt technology giving the federal government access to voter data and voter registration computer systems as part of the expanding effort to guard against Russian hacking attempts that targeted 21 states in 2016.
SIOUX CITY -- After the Sioux City school Board voted affirmatively Monday night, a big round of applause went up from many of the 30 teachers and parents who support adding an International Baccalaureate, or IB, program.
As an extended, back-and-forth, 80-minute discussion by the seven board members played out, some observers thought the final vote was in doubt. But ultimately, on a 6-1 vote, the school board pinpointed four elementary schools they hope can participate in an IB program that may be added down the line.
Since early 2018, superintendent Paul Gausman and other school leaders have urged school board members, who set, approve and fund school initiatives, to add the program. Backers claim IB would draw or retain more students, better prepare them for college and boost standardized test scores.
Initially, the discussion was to add IB in five schools in a few years. Now, the number may be as many as seven, Gausman said Monday. The superintendent said that likely would include all three middle schools, plus the four elementary schools approved Monday -- Nodland, Sunnyside, Perry Creek and the Clark Early Childhood Center.
Two months ago in setting the district's budget which begins July 1, the board earmarked $67,500 for first-year startup costs for the IB program. It typically costs $9,500 to $11,500 per school for annual materials and fees.
IB, administered by a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., has been implemented in 2,223 U.S. school districts, including some large metro districts like Chicago and Atlanta. Some schools have all instruction steered to International Baccalaureate, including a Minneapolis suburb, said Phillip Evans, a development specialist for IB, told school officials at a May meeting.
The IB curriculum covers a broad base of academic subjects, including English, foreign language, math, science, social studies, the arts and physical education.
Gausman said he recently learned that federal funds could be used to implement the program.
"This is a blessing we didn't know was coming," Gausman said.
School board member Jackie Warnstadt said that is fine, but she feared the federal money could dry up, then the costs would have to be paid out of the strapped school district's general fund. Warnstadt said she wanted a virtual guarantee that would not happen.
Gausman replied, "I absolutely believe this is the best thing for our district right now."
School board member David Gleiser cast the lone dissenting vote. Gleiser said it is understandable that parents on first blush would want IB, which has good facets, under the thought process of, "It is new, I want it.
"I just want to make sure we are not biting off more than we can chew," Gleiser said. "This program isn't for everybody."
School board member Miyuki Nelson said IB completely fits the mission of the district. Nelson said an affirmative vote on the four schools sends the right message to constituents, and to the estimated 1,200 students in the four elementary schools.
"Our goal is to challenge students," Nelson said.
Five members of the public, including one student, spoke right before the vote. Layla Lily, a fifth-grader at Perry Creek Elementary, said under IB, "students will take an active role in their learning."
Lily added, "Also, I hope to have I.B. at North Middle School."
Principal Amy Denney said the next step is to officially submit the four schools for approval to be accepted for IB. If that happens, a two- or three-year period would follow in which details towards implementation would be carried out before any instruction could begin.
Assistant Superintendent Kim Buryank said she anticipates no new teachers would be hired to carry out an IB program.
The proposal to add the program previously generated some controversy. Some parents and other district residents have spoken against IB at recent school board meetings. Critics said they would prefer to see the district increase funding to the Talented and Gifted program, rather than embark on a new curriculum endeavor.
No one from the audience raised that issue Monday.