The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to sources inside the agency, the Post reported. President Donald Trump told reporters today that he will be briefed on the conclusions by the CIA on Air Force One with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his way to California to visit areas affected by wildfires.
“As of this moment, we were told that [bin Salman] did not play a role, we’re gonna have to find out what they say,” Trump told reporters.
Saudi Arabia, however, is still denying bin Salman’s involvement. In October, Khashoggi, a well-known critic of the Saudi government, went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey for marriage papers. Although he was videotaped entering the consulate, he never exited the building. The Saudi government claimed it was a botched attempt to interrogate Khashoggi that caused his death, but audiotapes recently discovered prove otherwise. A recently-discovered audio recording reveals the alleged perpetrators discussing their plan to murder the journalist.
“Khashoggi’s desperate attempts to survive could be heard in a seven minute audio recording. There is no hint of anyone trying to persuade him,” Hürriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, who broke the story, wrote.
This week, the Treasury Department levied sanctions on seventeen individuals who are said to be involved in Khashoggi’s death. But Trump has gone out of his way not to blame Saudi Arabia or bin Salman, a close friend of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“They [Saudi Arabia] give us a lot of jobs, they give us a lot of business, a lot of economic development,” Trump said, adding that it has been “a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.”