Trump briefed by CIA director on Khashoggi as Saudis say murder was premeditated
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump has been briefed by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the latest in the U.S. investigation into how Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The CIA had no comment on a Washington Post report that Haspel had listened to audio purportedly capturing Khashoggi’s killing.
The president’s briefing comes as the pressure increases on Saudi Arabia to reveal what happened after their initial denials were proven false and their later explanations have shifted. The latest change came Thursday when the Saudi prosecutor announced that the murder of Khashoggi was premeditated, three days after a Saudi official told ABC News, “There was never a plan to kidnap or kill him.”
While they say it was premeditated, the Saudis maintain that the operation was never ordered by Saudi leadership and was instead a rogue directive by a deputy intelligence chief that was botched by a 15-man team. Neither King Salman nor his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about it beforehand, the Saudis say.
It’s unclear whether U.S. intelligence agrees. While several Republican and Democratic members of Congress have said the crown prince either knew or even ordered the operation, President Trump has so far repeated the Saudi line that both men denied any knowledge.
That could change after his briefing with Haspel, however, who is back in Washington after a trip to Turkey where she was briefed on Turkey’s own investigation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday in an address to parliament that the murder was “savage” and pre-planned.
Days later, the Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said that Saudi investigators came to the same conclusion after Turkish officials presented them evidence, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. Al-Mojeb’s office said last Friday that Saudi officials were responsible for the death of Khashoggi, who they said died in a fistfight — later saying it was from a chokehold after he raised his voice in the consulate.
Three weeks after his father’s murder, Salah Khashoggi and his family were able to leave Saudi Arabia after he was reportedly under a travel ban, according to Sarah Leah Watson, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Two days prior, he met with Prince Mohammed, the man who may have ordered his father’s murder, and was seen in photographs appearing sullen and pained. Salah and family expressed “great thanks” to the crown prince and his father King Salman, according to state media, and they expressed their condolences.
Salah is a dual U.S. and Saudi citizen. The State Department declined to comment on his departure, but an official previously told ABC News, “The Secretary has raised the safety and security of the Khashoggi family members with the Saudi leadership.”
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