Kushner: US still in 'fact-finding phase' in Khashoggi's death

White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPresident tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE on Monday broke his public silence following the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the Trump administration is still in the "fact-finding phase." 

"With regards to the situation in Saudi Arabia, I’d say that right now as an administration we’re more in the fact-finding phase and we’re obviously getting as many facts as we can from the different places and then we’ll determine which facts are credible," Kushner said during a CNN event.


Kushner has faced widespread scrutiny in recent days over his reported close relationship with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of orchestrating the Washington Post contributor's death. 

The president's son-in-law told CNN's Van Jones that he has advised the crown prince to "be transparent."

"This is a very serious accusation, a very serious situation," Kushner said. He said that he has told Salman "to make sure you’re transparent, to take this very seriously."

Reports emerged last week that Kushner advised President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE to wait out the international uproar sparked by Khashoggi's death, reminding him that Saudi Arabia has faced criticism before. Kushner denied those reports during the CNN event but declined to say what he has said to the president.

Kushner throughout the interview emphasized U.S. strategic interests in maintaining close ties to the Saudi kingdom, echoing Trump. He said the oil-rich nation is a "critical partner" in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, citing its opposition to Iran.

Later, he said U.S. strategy in the Middle East does not rely on Saudi Arabia.

"I’d say our strategy in the Middle East relies on ... America’s interests," he said. "And how do we utilize all the things that are available to us to try to push things forward?"

He also declined to say whether he believes the Saudi kingdom is being deceptive in its official account of Khashoggi's death. The Saudis over the weekend claimed Khashoggi was killed during a fistfight in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. They also said they have detained 18 suspects, and claimed the attack was not authorized by Saudi authorities.

Salman has denied any involvement.

U.S. lawmakers and multiple Western nations have cast doubt on the account, however, noting the Saudis' explanation of events has changed multiple times in recent weeks. Many of the suspects connected to Khashoggi's disappearance were part of Salman's security team, and intelligence officials have insisted it would have been difficult for the operation to happen without the crown prince's knowledge.

Turkey over the weekend said it will soon release the findings from their investigation of the incident.

--Updated at 11:12 a.m.