U.S. President Donald Trump, while flying to California on Saturday, was briefed on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after a CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, the White House said.
Reuters report a source familiar with the CIA’s assessment said it was based largely on circumstantial evidence relating to the prince’s central role in running the Saudi government.
The CIA’s finding is the most definitive U.S. assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia’s de factor ruler directly to the killing and contradicts Saudi government assertions that Prince Mohammed was not involved.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House before flying to California, also reiterated that the CIA assessment blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “very premature” and said he will receive a complete report on the case on Tuesday.
Meanwhile The New York Times reports that a top White House official responsible for American policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned on Friday evening, a move that may suggest fractures inside the Trump administration over the response to the brutal killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
The official, Kirsten Fontenrose, had pushed for tough measures against the Saudi government, and had been in Riyadh to discuss a raft of sanctions that the American government imposed in recent days against those identified as responsible for the killing, according to two people familiar with the conversations. Specifically, she advocated that Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, be added to the list, and he ultimately was.
The exact circumstances of her departure are murky, and it is unclear whether her advocacy for a hawkish response to the killing angered some in the White House. When she returned to Washington, according to the two people, she had a dispute with her bosses at the National Security Council, where she had served as the director for the Persian Gulf region.
A representative for the council declined to comment. Ms. Fontenrose did not reply to messages seeking comment.