By Justin Sink and Glen Carey / Bloomberg
President Donald Trump may not respond to a congressional request that he determine whether Saudi Arabia’s government was responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a senior administration official said.
The official said in an emailed statement that Trump maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when the president feels it is appropriate. The official asked not to be identified discussing the matter because of its sensitivity.
The official said the White House would continue to consult with Congress on the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.
The former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and the senior Democrat on the panel, Bob Menendez, sent a letter to the administration in October invoking the Magnitsky Act of 2016 to demand an investigation of Khashoggi’s death and determine whether new sanctions should be imposed on Saudi Arabia.
Menendez said the administration’s deadline was Friday.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, told reporters in Washington that he wasn’t aware of the U.S. reaching out to Saudi authorities to conduct its own investigation under the Magnitsky Act. “I don’t know, probably, maybe through security channels but I am not aware that there was.”
He urged Americans to keep an open mind about the Saudi government’s culpability for the murder, noting that a Saudi public prosecutor has charged 11 people with involvement in the crime.
“We have said that we will investigate and we have. We have said that those responsible will be held accountable,” al-Jubeir said. “We’re saying let the legal process play out and then judge us when it is complete. But don’t judge us before this is complete.”
Khashoggi, an insider-turned-critic of the Saudi ruling regime, was killed and dismembered by people close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate after entering to pick up documents for his wedding. Saudi Arabia has said the kingdom’s 33-year-old de facto ruler was not aware of any plan to kill Khashoggi.
The New York Times reported that the crown prince once told a top aide, Turki Aldakhil, that he would use a “bullet” on Khashoggi if the columnist didn’t return to the kingdom and stop his criticism. The Times, citing unidentified current and former U.S. intelligence officials, said the 2017 conversation was intercepted by U.S. spy agencies.