Trump calls CIA assessment of Khashoggi murder ‘premature’

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departure from Elko Regional Airport in Elko, Nevada, U.S., October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

 

President Donald Trump has called a CIA assessment blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “very premature” and said he will receive a complete report on the case on Tuesday.

Trump, on a trip to California, said the killing “should never have happened.” The report on Tuesday will explain who the U.S. government believes killed Khashoggi and what the overall impact of his murder is, Trump said. It was unclear who is producing the report.

Trump also said the CIA finding that bin Salman was responsible for the killing was “possible.”

Trump made the remarks hours after the State Department said the government was still working on determining responsibility for the death of Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Washington Post columnist.

“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 discussed the CIA assessment by phone with the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while flying to California on Saturday, 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.

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 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.

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