Vice President Pence on Saturday vowed to hold those responsible for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi accountable after a CIA assessment found that the Saudi crown prince ordered his death.
Pence told reporters while traveling in Papua New Guinea for events surrounding an Asia-Pacific summit that he "can’t comment on classified information" but said Khashoggi's death last month 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,” he said, according to pool reports.
Pence added that the U.S. is "going to follow the facts" on Khashoggi's death while saying that the Trump administration wanted to find a way to preserve a "strong and historic partnership" with the Saudi kingdom.
The vice president’s comments came after reports that the CIA had concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi inside the country's consulate in Istanbul.
The intelligence agency reportedly examined a phone call between the crown prince's brother Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and Khashoggi.
Khalid allegedly insisted on the call that Khashoggi would be safe going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.
The Washington Post reported that it was unclear if Khalid knew Khashoggi was to be killed at the consulate, but said that he made the call at the direction of his brother.
The call was reportedly intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist living in Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government before he disappeared at the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
The Saudis insisted for weeks that Khashoggi left the consulate alive but later claimed he died during a physical altercation with officials who were acting without orders.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington claimed Friday that Khalid never had any phone conversations with Khashoggi.
"The claims in this purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations," a spokesperson for the embassy said.
The Trump administration on Thursday announced sanctions against 17 Saudis for their alleged roles in Khashoggi’s death.