Saudi Arabia mulls blaming top intel officer over Khashoggi disappearance: report

Saudi Arabia's leaders are considering blaming a top Saudi intelligence officer for the apparent murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources with knowledge told The New York Times on Thursday

The man who could be blamed for the killing, Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, is a top adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

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Blaming al-Assiri could deflect attention from Salman, who many U.S. intelligence officials suspect could be behind the alleged slaying, the Times reported.

Al-Assiri was previously the public-facing spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen's bloody civil war in 2015, the Times reported.

Reports emerged earlier this week that the Saudis were assembling a report that would admit Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents during a "botched interrogation" that occurred without authorization from the country's top leaders. 

So far, the Saudis have publicly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance.

Turkish authorities have been saying for weeks that a team of Saudi agents killed Khashoggi in Istanbul's Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2. Khashoggi was last seen entering the embassy.

Turkey claims it has access to a recording of Khashoggi being tortured and dismembered by Saudis. The U.S. has requested access to the audio.

Four of the suspects in Khashoggi's alleged murder have been identified as members of Salman's security team, the Times reported.

A person close to the White House told the Times that White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCareer State official warned about Biden's son: report Buttigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates MORE has been telling President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE, his father-in-law, to stand by the crown prince. 

Kushner has reportedly told Trump that the outrage will die down soon, just as it did after reports emerged that Saudi Arabia was responsible for killing 40 children in a brutal attack during Yemen's civil war. 

Kushner's warm relationship with Salman has come under close scrutiny as the Khashoggi crisis has unfolded. 

President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDiplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes MORE have repeated Saudi denials, saying the crown prince and King Salman claim they were not involved in Khashoggi's disappearance whatsoever. 

Both Trump and Pompeo have noted the U.S. has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. The two countries have deep financial and diplomatic ties, with the U.S. recently selling $110 in arms to the Saudis. The kingdom is the No. 2 supplier of oil to the U.S. 

Khashoggi's disappearance has created an international crisis, with multiple countries calling for an investigation into the claims that Saudi leadership ordered Khashoggi's murder. Multiple U.S. lawmakers have called for punishments against the Saudis, including sanctions and an end to arms deals. 

Khashoggi was a Virginia-based opinions contributor to The Washington Post. He was a leading critic of the Saudi government.