Trump says ‘full report’ on Khashoggi murder in next two days

US President Donald Trump says his administration’s report will include information on ‘who did it’.


Trump said “as of this moment we were told that he [Mohammed bin Salman] did not play a role” in Khashoggi’s murder [Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA]

US President Donald Trump has said that his administration will release a full report in the next two days about the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that the report will include information on “who did it”.

“We’ll be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday,” Trump said.

The murder of Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, has posed a diplomatic headache for the president: how to admonish Riyadh for the killing and maintain ties with a key ally in the Middle East.

The CIA has concluded that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi, according to reports in US media in recent days.

US officials familiar with the case have cautioned that while it’s likely that the crown prince was involved in the death, there continue to be questions about what role he played, according to AP news agency.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly changed its narrative of the killing, first denying knowledge of the journalist’s whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument turned into a fistfight.

Last week, a Saudi prosecutor announced that Riyadh was seeking the death penalty for five people involved in the murder. He also said that bin Salman was not implicated in the killing.

The US State Department said on Saturday that the government is “determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable”.

“Recent reports indicating that the US government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr Khashoggi.”

The statement added: “The US government has taken decisive measures against the individuals responsible, including visa and sanctions actions. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable who planned, led and were connected to the murder. And, we will do that while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

Intelligence officials have been providing information to Trump about the death for weeks and he was briefed again by phone on Saturday by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he flew to California.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call but said the president has confidence in the CIA.

Before his call on Air Force One, Trump told reporters that when it came to the crown prince, “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.”

That echoed remarks by national security adviser John Bolton, who said earlier this week that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing do not think it implicates the crown prince.

Also before leaving on his trip, Trump said Saudi Arabia was “a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.”

“I have to take a lot of things into consideration” when deciding what measures to take against the kingdom, he said.

Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said “the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”

But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Middle East agenda.

Members of US Congress are pushing Trump for a tougher response to the killing. The administration this past week penalised 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other, harsher punitive measures.

US Vice President Mike Pence told reporters traveling with him Saturday for a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua New Guinea, that the “murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.

It was also an affront to a free and independent press, and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder.”

Turkish and Saudi authorities say he was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he went there to get marriage documents.


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