The Trump administration revoked the visas Tuesday of some Saudi officials implicated in the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi in its first punitive measure against its longtime Middle East partner, as President Donald Trump denounced the kingdom for one of the "worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups." Shortly after Trump made the comment, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was moving to revoke the visas of Saudi government and intelligence agents suspected of involvement in the death of Khashoggi. Visa records are confidential and Pompeo was not more specific about who 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 US, the AP reports.
"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. Neither the president or I am happy with this situation." Members of Congress have demanded that sanctions be imposed on Saudi Arabia. Trump has resisted calls thus far to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and Pompeo stressed the strategic importance of the US-Saudi relationship. But in his remarks to reporters at the White House, Trump derided the initial Saudi denial of any wrongdoing and efforts to conceal what happened to Khashoggi. "They had a very bad original concept," he 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." (The Saudi crown prince's day involved a jarring handshake.)