Mattis: Investigation into killing of Khashoggi is ongoing

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday said the administration is looking for more information regarding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose killing has been linked to the country's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

“We are continuing to review. I am quite satisfied we will find more evidence of what happened,” Mattis told reporters Wednesday en route to Canada.

“I just don't know yet what it's going to be or who's going to be implicated, but we will follow it as far as we can,” he said according to a Pentagon transcript released Thursday

Mattis's latest comments come as lawmakers slam the administration for failing to acknowledge proof that they say leaves little doubt of the crown prince’s involvement.

The Pentagon chief late last month he said that there was “no smoking gun” linking the bin Salman to the death of Khashoggi, who who was critical of the Saudi government in his columns in The Washington Post. Khashoggi was killed in October when he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The CIA later reportedly concluded that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death.

After being briefed behind closed doors by CIA chief Gina Haspel, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that “There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” referencing Mattis's earlier comment. 

“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Graham added, using the crown prince’s initials.

Graham on Wednesday joined Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.), in introducing a resolution that throws Senate support behind the finding that the crown prince was "complicit" in Khashoggi’s death.

Mattis said Graham “has a right to his own opinion,” and that the administration believes “in accountability for whoever was directly involved in the Khashoggi murder or who directed the Khashoggi murder. That is from beginning -- my first statements publicly, I have not waivered at all.”

Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were on Capitol Hill last week to brief senators on U.S.-Saudi relations and the Yemen civil war, an attempt to sway the lawmakers from moving to end U.S. military support for the Saudis in Yemen.

Senators were unconvinced by the administration's arguments and voted 63-37 to advance the resolution.

Some senators have since said that they felt mislead by Mattis and Pompeo’s briefing.

Asked whether he had reached a conclusion on the crown prince’s involvement, Mattis said that he needs to see solid evidence.

“There are sincere, studious people who are drawing different conclusions,” Mattis said. “We are doing everything we can to go down every rabbit hole to find what's there and that's my responsibility because a significant amount of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, including a rather critical part of it, is under my cognizance.

“So just bear with us. When we speak, it'll be with the authority and I won't, I will not speculate or draw premature conclusions but we are leaving no stone unturned.”