Khashoggi con­clu­sion not last word, U.S. says

Crown prince or­dered the killing, 1 official had said

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Deb Riechmann

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.

GETTY-AFP

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.

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