Biden to speak with Saudi king ahead of Khashoggi report: report
President Biden is set to speak with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ahead of the release of an intelligence report likely linking the king’s son to the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Axios reports.
The reported call Wednesday would be the first between the two leaders since Biden took office last month, with the White House earlier saying the new administration is looking to “recalibrate” the United States’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The White House told The Hill on Wednesday that it did not have anything to share on a possible call between the president and the Saudi king.
While Biden has publicly stated a U.S. commitment to Saudi Arabia and its defensive needs in the region, the affirmations came alongside the president’s announcement earlier this month that he would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen’s civil war.
The report on the murder of Khashoggi is likely to come up in the call, as the president has emphasized a commitment to putting human rights at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy.
Axios reported that the intelligence community’s report on Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, is expected to be released on Thursday.
The CIA reportedly concluded in November 2018 that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, considered the de-facto leader of the kingdom, personally ordered Khashoggi’s murder and legislation passed by Congress in December 2019 called for a declassified assessment by the intelligence community to be released.
The crown prince denied involvement in the murder but said in a 2019 interview with PBS that he is ultimately responsible because the killing “happened under my watch.”
Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence (DNI), committed to releasing the classified report during her confirmation hearing in January, saying she’d follow the law.
The Office of the DNI did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Hill.
Former President Trump notably downplayed the crown prince’s reported involvement in Khashoggi’s murder in favor of bolstering the U.S. and Saudi relationship. Riyadh was a key player in Trump’s Middle East foreign policy.
Saudi Arabia was the first country that Trump visited as a foreign leader and the crown prince reportedly enjoyed a close personal relationship with the former president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.