U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington will make a final conclusion on who was involved in the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi early next week, following U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman ordered the killing.
Trump told reporters in the U.S. state of California on November 17 that "we'll be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday."
U.S. intelligence agencies believe the crown prince, who is the de facto leader of the kingdom, ordered the killing of the dissident and journalist in Turkey last month.
The Saudi government denied the claim, which was first reported by The Washington Post late on November 17 and later confirmed by other media, including AP and Reuters.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said earlier on November 17 that "recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion [on the Khashoggi case] are inaccurate."
The U.S. intelligence assessment is the clearest U.S. finding yet to link the crown prince directly to the killing.
It could bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close U.S. ally for the killing.
Trump was briefed on the findings by CIA head Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on November 17 during a flight to California.
"The CIA is going to be speaking to me today," he said as he boarded the plane for California before the briefing.
"As of this moment, we were told that [the crown prince] did not play a role. We're going to have to find out what they have to say."
"We also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia," Trump added. "They give us a lot of jobs and a lot of business and economic development."
The Post, citing people familiar with the matter, said the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment was based in part on a phone call the crown prince's brother, Prince Khaled bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.
The ambassador denied making such a call in a posting on Twitter on November 17.
Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said on November 15 that he was seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in the killing.
The prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, told reporters the crown prince knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered and removed from the consulate and handed to a local "collaborator."
Last week, the Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but U.S. lawmakers have been calling for tougher measures, including a curtailment of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.