Khashoggi conclusion not last word, U.S. says
Crown prince ordered the killing, 1 official had said
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration denied Saturday that it had reached a final determination in the death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.
After President Donald Trump called his CIA chief and top diplomat from Air Force One as he flew to survey wildfire damage in California, the State Department released a statement saying “recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate.”
American intelligence agencies have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, according to a U.S. official familiar with the assessment. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity Friday. The conclusion was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Saudi government has denied the claim.
Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement Saturday that the government was “determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable” and that “there remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder.”
She said the department “will continue to seek all relevant facts” and consult with Congress and other nations “to hold accountable those involved in the killing.”
Trump spoke earlier with CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Air Force One, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
She provided no additional details but said the president has confidence in the CIA.
Trump told reporters before he left for California that, when it came to the crown prince, “as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We’re going to have to find out what they have to say.”
In his remarks, the president spoke of Saudi Arabia as “a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.”
“I have to take a lot of things into consideration” when deciding what measures to take against the kingdom.
The State Department statement noted the administration’s recent actions against a number of Saudis, but cited the need to maintain “the important strategic relationship” between the two allies.
The intelligence agencies’ conclusion will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close U.S. ally for the killing.
The administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat has said the crown prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with the killing.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters traveling with him at a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua New Guinea that he could not comment on “classified information.” He said Saturday “the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press, and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder.”
The United States will “follow the facts,” Pence said, while trying to find a way of preserving a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in self-imposed exile in the United States, where he was a legal permanent resident and columnist for the Post, often criticized the royal family. He was killed Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Muslims gather at Kaaba in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on Friday as friends and relatives of Jamaal Khashoggi take part in the absentee funeral prayer.