The State Department on Saturday said the U.S. government has not made a final conclusion on who was involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi amid media reports of a CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.
“Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”
Nauert said the State Department will continue to seek facts and work with other countries to hold those involved in the journalist’s killing accountable “while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
Trump, while flying to California on Saturday, discussed the CIA assessment by phone with the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
The CIA had briefed other parts of the U.S. government, including Congress, on its assessment, sources told Reuters on Friday, a development that complicates Trump’s efforts to preserve ties with the key U.S. ally.
A source familiar with the CIA’s assessment said it was based largely on circumstantial evidence relating to the prince’s central role in running the Saudi government.
The CIA’s finding is the most definitive U.S. assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler directly to the killing and contradicts Saudi government assertions that Prince Mohammed was not involved.
Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, was killed in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he went there to pick up documents he needed for his planned marriage.