Saudi Arabia is 'a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development', says President Trump
Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected within two days
President Donald Trump said his administration will get a full report in the next two days about the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir says a rogue operation was responsible for the dissident writer’s slaying in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 but insists Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had "absolutely" nothing to do with the killing.
The situation has created a diplomatic dilemma for the US president: How to admonish Riyadh for the killing yet maintain strong ties with a close ally in the Middle East.
"We'll be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday," President Trump said Saturday. That will include "who did it," he said.
One potential sign of the tension the incident has caused within the US administration is the resignation on Friday of a top White House official responsible for American policy towards Saudi Arabia.
Kirsten Fontenrose, who had pushed for tough sanctions against the Saudi government over the death of Khashoggi, resigned as the director for the Persian Gulf region at the National Security Council, The New York Times reports.
The reasons for her departure were not clear, but Ms Fontenrose recently travelled to Riyadh to discuss American sanctions imposed against the Saudi officials the US identified as responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed President Trump about Khashoggi’s death again on Saturday. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call but said the president has confidence in the CIA.
Before the briefing, President 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.
"The United States government is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable," the State Department said. "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."
President Trump said on Saturday 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.
The president 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 antagonise the Saudi rulers. President Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Middle East agenda.
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".