By Carlo Versano
President Trump raised the possibility on Monday that missing and presumed-dead journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been murdered by "rogue killers" from Saudi Arabia, a theory he floated to reporters after a phone call with Saudi King Salman.
Trump also said he was dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia "immediately" in the hopes of quelling a mounting geopolitical crisis stretching from Istanbul to Riyadh to Washington, D.C.
Trump said Salman issued a "very strong denial" that he was involved in the disappearance of Khashoggi.
In an interview with "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday night, Trump said there would be "severe punishment" if it turns out the Saudi royal family carried out a hit under diplomatic cover on Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi citizen and columnist for the Washington Post who lived and worked in the U.S.
Trump's interview ー in which he opined on several issues in confident and defiant terms, at one point telling CBS's ($CBS) Lesley Stahl, "I'm president and you're not" ー is part of a coordinated media strategy that has allowed the president to hold multiple Q&As per day.
"They're finally unleashing Trump to be this master of all media," Politico's Daniel Lippman said Monday in an interview on Cheddar. "He's putting himself out there," even as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has slowed the rate of press briefings to a trickle.
Meanwhile, three weeks out from the midterms, the 2020 race is heating up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over the weekend released results of a DNA test that showed she was part Native American ー a response to Trump's repeated questioning of her ancestry. It was clearly part of a plan to pit her against the president and "lay the groundwork" for a run, said Lippman.
Trump responded "who cares," to a shouted question about Warren on Monday. He denied that he ever offered to donate $1 million to charity if the Senator took a DNA test that showed she was "an Indian."
For full interview click here.