Mike Pompeo Says 'No Direct' Link Between Saudi Crown Prince and Khashoggi Killing in CIA Report

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied reports that a recent CIA investigation had established direct links between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the death of a Saudi journalist at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Jamal Khashoggi's death at the hands of Riyadh's agents has prompted new criticism over the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, already under fire due to the war it leads against a Zaidi Shiite rebel group known as the Houthis, or Ansar Allah, in Yemen. Reports have indicated that a classified CIA inquiry into Khashoggi's slaying directly implicated Salman, but Pompeo denied this as senators prepared to vote on whether the U.S. should continue military assistance to Saudi Arabia.

"I do believe I've read every piece of intelligence, unless it's come in in the last few hours. I think I've read it all," said Pompeo, who was formerly the CIA's director. "There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And that's all I can say in an unclassified setting."

In a blog post before the briefing, the top diplomat said that "degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies."

The Trump administration has faced mounting pressure to take action against Saudi Arabia, whose de facto leader has been increasingly implicated in the death of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and prominent critic of the Saudi government. Riyadh initially denied any involvement in his disappearance early last month but later announced charges against officials who allegedly killed him in a rogue operation.

Though sources familiar with the classified CIA report have said it found that Salman ordered Khashoggi's killing, the president and his top officials have denied this. In a statement last week, Trump proclaimed he was "standing with Saudi Arabia" due to its eagerness to buy U.S. arms, its control over the oil market and its shared goal of isolating the Shiite regime in Iran.

"Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Trump said in a statement last week. "We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi."

Trump further warned lawmakers that he would accept only congressional proposals that "are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America." He later said that the CIA report had "feelings certain ways" about Khashoggi's killing but did not charge Salman directly.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California told CNN on Sunday that "the president is being dishonest" about the findings of the report. Senators such as Vermont's Bernie Sanders have pushed ahead with a vote seeking to limit U.S. weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, which—in addition to Khashoggi's killing—has been accused of widespread war crimes in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with the Tunisian president at the presidential palace in Carthage, Tunisia, on November 27. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied reports that the CIA had established direct links between the crown prince and the death of a Saudi journalist at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

In addition to Pompeo, White House national security adviser John Bolton and Defense Secretary James Mattis have defended U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, with the former admitting Tuesday that he has not listened to an audio recording of Khashoggi's death because he does not "speak Arabic." On Wednesday, Mattis urged senators not to vote in favor of limiting military assistance to Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates.

"Pulling back our limited U.S. military support, our weapons sales to our partners and our protection of the Saudi and Emirati populations would be misguided on the eve of the promising initial negotiations," Mattis told lawmakers.

Noticeably absent, however, was CIA Director Gina Haspel, who did not deliver remarks, despite overseeing the report.