A State Department spokesman said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the Saudis to release the younger Khashoggi and deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said the US was “pleased” that he was allowed to leave the country.
Salah Khashoggi is the eldest son of The Washington Post columnist whom Saudis officials now admit was killed in a pre-meditated murder
carried out by a squad of men, some of whom had close ties to the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Initially, Saudi Arabia denied all knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance inside its consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi officials later announced it had identified 18 men involved in the operation, leading the State Department to announce it was freezing visas for 21 Saudi nationals. On Thursday, Palladino said the additional three people targeted by the US belonged to Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services, royal court and a government ministry.
Officials have told CNN it is highly unlikely that the operation against the Saudi dissident and critic could have taken place without the awareness of the crown prince, who controls the country’s security apparatus.
On Tuesday, the Crown Prince and his father King Salman were pictured shaking hands with the stone-faced younger Khashoggi, in an orchestrated photo-opportunity at a royal palace in Riyadh.
CIA director Gina Haspel, who travelled to Turkey Tuesday to consult with officials there, briefed
President Donald Trump Thursday on the Turkish investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
According to The Washington Post, Haspel heard audio in Turkey’s possession that is purported of
Khashoggi’s October 2 killing. Palladino confirmed that Pompeo attended Haspel’s briefing at the White House, but would not confirm whether he heard the audio or saw the video that Turkish officials claim to possess.
Trump has increasingly expressed frustration with the Saudi response. The kingdom has undertaken its own investigation, led by the crown prince. Palladino said the US had no timeline on the investigation, but that they’d like to see results “as soon as possible.”
The fallout from Khashoggi’s murder has damaged Saudi Arabia, badly tarnished the crown prince and raised questions about US foreign policy priorities that hinge on the kingdom’s financing or cooperation. The ongoing questions have riled Trump, who has been increasingly irritated by the negative coverage, sources say, and blames the Saudis for making him look bad.
On Tuesday, Trump told reporters that Saudi authorities had staged the “worst cover-up ever” of the crime, and suggested to the Wall Street Journal that the crown prince may be responsible.
“The prince is running things over there more so at this stage,” Trump said when asked about bin Salman’s involvement. “He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.”