Dem senator demands public intelligence assessment on Khashoggi killing

A Democratic senator is calling on the U.S. intelligence community to issue a public assessment on the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the wake of news reports that the CIA concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private Congress should elevate those trapped in the gap – support ELEVATE Act IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries MORE (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement Monday called on CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Lawmakers worry as 'deepfakes' spread | New intel strategy sees threats from emerging tech | Google fined M under EU data rules | WhatsApp moves to curb misinformation New intelligence strategy identifies emerging tech as major threat Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home MORE “to come out and provide the American people and the Congress with a public assessment of who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

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The Washington Post reported last week that the CIA had assessed with high confidence that the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing, contrary to claims by the Saudi government that he played no role. Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist who was critical of the Saudi government and wrote for The Washington Post, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

The Saudi government has offered various explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance, at first claiming he left the consulate unharmed and later describing his murder as a rogue operation. The top Saudi prosecutor said last week that Khashoggi's body had been dismembered and that the government was seeking the death penalty for five of its agents involved in the killing.

Separately, the Trump administration announced Thursday that it would sanction 17 Saudi officials for their alleged roles in Khashoggi’s death.

The developments have posed a challenge for President TrumpDonald John TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing MORE, who is seeking to preserve strong U.S.-Saudi ties. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Trump seemed to suggest he believed the crown prince was telling the truth when he said he had nothing to do with Khashoggi's death.

“He told me that he had nothing to do with it," Trump said. "He told me that, I would say, maybe five times at different points."

“Will anybody really know?” he later added. “But he did have certainly people that were reasonably close to him and close to him that were probably involved. You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But at the same time we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good."

Wyden seized on the president’s comments in his statement Monday, which was first reported by Reuters.

“The question of whether the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia had any role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi is tremendously important when it comes to the United States' response to the killing and other Saudi actions,” Wyden said.

“Donald Trump just says ‘will anybody really know?’ as if our intelligence agencies are incapable of making an assessment,” Wyden added. “It is time for CIA Director Haspel and DNI Coats to come out and provide the American people and the Congress with a public assessment of who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Trump also said Sunday he had not listened to the audio recording of Khashoggi’s murder that was provided to him by the Turkish government, calling it a “suffering” and “terrible” tape and noting he had been fully briefed on it.

Trump has promised that his administration would issue a report on the matter by Tuesday, though he offered few details on what would be included in the document.