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State Department: No Conclusion Reached in Khashoggi Death


President Donald Trump answers questions from reporters as he leaves the White House, Nov. 17, 2018, in Washington, en route to see fire damage in California.

The U.S. State Department said Saturday that the government had not reached a conclusion about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Trump administration took issue with reports that, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. The State Department called such reports “inaccurate."

CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed President Donald Trump on the Khashoggi case by phone Saturday as he was en route to California.

Later, while touring wildfire devastation in Southern California, Trump told reporters the U.S. government would release a report Tuesday about who killed Khashoggi.

The statement from the State Department was issued minutes after presidential spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump "has confidence in the CIA."

The State Department also said the U.S. government "is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing ... accountable" and that "numerous unanswered questions" remained.

The CIA assessment, first reported Friday by the Post, contradicted that of Saudi Arabia, whose top prosecutor one day earlier exonerated the crown prince in Khashoggi’s death.

U.S. officials said the CIA had concluded that 15 Saudi agents flew in a Saudi government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi Oct. 2 in the Saudi Consulate, where he had gone to pick up documents needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.

Brother's phone call

The Post said the CIA based its conclusion on multiple intelligence sources, including a phone call that the prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman, who is also the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.

In the phone call, Khalid told Khashoggi that it would be safe for him to go the consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents. The paper said it was not known whether Khalid knew Khashoggi would be killed.

Khalid denied in a tweet Friday that he had spoken with Khashoggi.

"The last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim,'' he said.

Saudi officials have said the killing of Khashoggi was accidental and that Saudi officials were trying to force Khashoggi to return to the kingdom.

Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and have been pressuring Saudi Arabia to allow those responsible to be tried in Turkey.

The Trump administration this week sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged roles in the killing. However, some U.S. lawmakers have called on the White House to do more, including reducing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Trump has said the Saudi government tried to hide the killing in “one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.'' However, he has resisted calls to reduce arms sales to the Saudis. He has sought closer ties with Saudi Arabia to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East, as well as to increase arms deals between Washington and Riyadh.

White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.