WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The CIA believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, sources accustomed to the problem said on Friday, complicating President Donald Trump’s efforts to preserve ties using a key U.S. ally.
The sources said the CIA had briefed other places with the U.S. government, including Congress, on its assessment, which contradicts Saudi government assertions that Prince Mohammed was not involved.
The CIA’s finding, first reported by way of the Washington Post, is easily the most definitive U.S. assessment so far tying Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler straight away to the killing.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington rejected the CIA assessment.
“The claims in this purported assessment is false,” a spokeswoman for the embassy said inside of a statement. “We’ve got and strive to hear various theories without seeing the key foundation for these speculations.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, with a trip to Papua New Guinea, told reporters traveling with him that he or she couldn’t discuss classified information.
“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to your free and independent press plus the Us is decided to hang every one of the accountable that happen to be the cause of that murder,” he said, but added that Washington planned to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The State Department declined to comment.
Trump and top officials of his administration have said Saudi Arabia has to be held to be the reason for any involvement in Khashoggi’s death, they have stressed the necessity of the alliance.
U.S. officials have said Saudi Arabia, a serious oil supplier, plays a crucial part in countering the things they see as Iran’s malign role in your neighborhood, and Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t wish to imperil U.S. arms sales into the kingdom.
While the Trump administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis with regards to role in Khashoggi’s killing, many lawmakers think the United States must take a tougher stance, as well as the CIA’s findings could very well embolden that view.
Khashoggi, a critic from the Saudi government as well as a columnist to the Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 as he went there to grab documents he required for his planned marriage into a Turkish woman.
Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh for him an extra shot home. Saudi officials have said a team of 15 Saudi nationals were sent to confront Khashoggi in the consulate and was accidentally killed in a chokehold by guys who were trying to force him to revisit australia.
Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and also have been pressuring Saudi Arabia to extradite those responsible to stand trial. An adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia when attemping to disguise the murder.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Thursday they was seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged inside killing. The prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, told reporters the crown prince knew nothing in the operation, through which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered and stripped away from the consulate.
U.S. officials were skeptical that Prince Mohammed do not possess known about offers to kill Khashoggi, given his treatments for Saudi Arabia.
The Post, citing people knowledgeable about the problem, said the CIA’s assessment was headquartered in part on the text message the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khaled bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador on the U . s ., had with Khashoggi.
Prince Khaled told Khashoggi he should go towards the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances who’s could well be safe to do so, the Post said.
The newspaper, citing people knowledgeable about the call, said it has not been clear should the prince knew Khashoggi would be killed but that he made the phone call at his brother’s direction.
The prince said in a very Twitter post on Friday the fact that last contact he has with Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017, nearly 12 months prior to the journalist’s death.
“Irrrve never spoke to him on the phone and of course never suggested he head over to Turkey unconditionally. I ask the united states government to discharge any information regarding this claim,” Prince Khaled said.
The Post said the CIA also examined a phone call within your Saudi consulate in Istanbul after Khashoggi’s killing.
Maher Mutreb, a security alarm official who have often been seen at the crown prince’s side, made the decision to Saud al-Qahtani, a highly regarded aide to Prince Mohammed, to inform him the operation have been completed, the Post said, citing people familiar with the decision.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by David Alexander and Jeff Mason; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Sonya Hepinstall and Tom Hogue)