Trump calls CIA's assessment of Saudi journalist's murder premature
WASHINGTON/MALIBU US President Donald Trump on Saturday called a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessment blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi "very premature".
Mr Trump said he would receive a complete report tomorrow, explaining who the US government believes killed Mr Khashoggi and what the impact of his murder is.
Mr Trump's remarks came after the State Department said the government was still working on determining responsibility for the death of Mr Khashoggi, a US-based Washington Post columnist.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr Khashoggi."
The State Department would continue to seek facts and work with other countries to hold those involved accountable "while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia".
Mr Trump discussed the CIA assessment by phone with the agency's director, Gina Haspel, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
The CIA had briefed other parts of the US government, including Congress, on its assessment, sources said.
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 US 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.
Mr Khashoggi, a 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.
As lawmakers push legislation to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing, both Republican and Democratic senators on Saturday urged Mr Trump to be tough on the crown prince, with whom he has cultivated a deep personal relationship.
"Everything points to the Crown Prince... ordering (the)... killing. The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before (the prince) executes the men who apparently carried out his orders," tweeted Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. - REUTERS