Donald Trump has said he is awaiting a briefing from the CIA on the death of Jamal Khashoggi, after a US official said the intelligence agency had concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the journalist’s murder.
The president was expecting to speak to the agency on Saturday to receive an update on its assessment, which contradicts the kingdom’s claims that the prince was not involved in the assassination.
The CIA is said to have “high confidence” in the conclusions of its investigation, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the development.
An official familiar with the agency’s investigation confirmed its conclusion.
Speaking to reporters before leaving the White House for California, Mr Trump said: “We haven’t been briefed yet. The CIA is going to be speaking to me today.
“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.”
The CIA’s assessment is the most definitive to date that links the crown prince to Khashoggi’s killing. It is likely to complicate the US president’s hopes of preserving his administration’s close relationship with the Saudi regime.
Mr Trump said Saudi Arabia was “a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development” and he would “have to take a lot of things into consideration” when deciding what measures to take against the kingdom.
He added he would speak to the CIA “and lots of others”, including secretary of state Mike Pompeo, while on board Air Force One.
The intelligence agency’s conclusion will fuel efforts in congress to further punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder in the kingdom’s Istanbul embassy last month.
Mr Trump’s administration this week penalised 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the president to also curtail arms sales to the kingdom or take other harsher punitive measures.
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat insisted the crown prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with the killing.
Republican senator Bob Corker, who chairs the foreign relations committee, said “everything points” to the crown prince’s involvement. He urged Mr Trump to act quickly before the Saudi regime executed those it has blamed for the Khashoggi murder.
He tweeted: “Everything points to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MbS, ordering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
“The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders.”
Vice-president Mike Pence told reporters travelling with him at a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua New Guinea that he could not comment on “classified information”.
He said the US would “follow the facts” while trying to find a way of preserving a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who lived in the US, was a columnist for the Washington Post and often criticised the royal family.
Turkish and Saudi authorities say he was killed after entering the consulate on 2 October to get documents he needed for his upcoming wedding.
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