- (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to the adviser who oversaw the effort to kill Jamal Khashoggi in the hours around the journalist’s killing, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
- According to a classified CIA report obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the crown prince’s messages to aide Saud al-Qahtani suggest he “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.”
- The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a vocal critic of Saudi leadership, has set off a firestorm of demands from US lawmakers for a strong response to the kingdom as the White House has been reluctant to assign blame to the crown prince.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to the adviser who oversaw the effort to kill Jamal Khashoggi in the hours around the journalist’s killing, according to a classified CIA report obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
The crown prince told his advisers “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements” if Khashoggi, who was previously based in Virginia, did not return to Saudi Arabia.
The Journal reported that CIA analysis of the communication “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a vocal critic of Saudi leadership, was killed on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage documents for his upcoming wedding.
The CIA assessment state the agency has “medium-to-high confidence” that the prince “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.”
Despite the findings, the report also said: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.”
Prince Mohammed apparently sent the electronic messages to aide Saud al-Qahtani, who oversaw the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi, though the report says the content of the messages isn’t known. Al-Qahtani was sanctioned by the White House last month for his involvement.
The report said it was unclear in the excerpts if the comments came directly from the crown prince or were from someone describing the communications.
The CIA concluded last month that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, a connection President Donald Trump has sought to cast doubt on. Trump issued a statement that included defense of the kingdom as a “great ally” and refusal to assign blame to the prince, saying “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” order the killing.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis have also demurred at responding to the connections, with Mattis insisting recently that the US had “no smoking gun” tied to Prince Mohammed.
The Trump administration’s reluctance to acknowledge reports from the justice community stands in contrast to calls for a US response from lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who demanded action for Khashoggi’s death, which he called “completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for.”
The Senate rebuked Trump last week when it advanced a bill that would end US support for Saudi efforts in Yemen’s civil war, a bill the Trump administration had opposed.