U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that U.S. authorities are still investigating the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul.
The top U.S. diplomat told Fox News that the United States would hold those found responsible accountable for his death, noting that the U.S. has already imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi agents it believes were responsible.
Pompeo called Khashoggi's killing "a tragic incident," and "not something that America approves of."
However, he echoed President Donald Trump's stand supporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman even as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Salman, the country's de facto ruler, was behind the October 2 killing.
Last month, Trump said, "The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone." But, he added, "The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region."
Trump said it "could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event -- maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"
CIA director Gina Haspel is briefing leaders of the House of Representatives on the agency's Khashoggi findings behind closed doors on Wednesday, much as she did for Senate leaders a week ago.
Key Republican senators rejected Trump's equivocation on Salman's involvement in the Khashoggi killing and have called for sanctions against Riyadh and a cut-off of support for Saudi Arabia's involvement in the war in Yemen.
Senator Lindsey Graham, after listening to Haspel's briefing, said, "You have to be willfully blind" not to conclude the killing was orchestrated by agents under the command of the crown prince.
"There's not a smoking gun, but a smoking saw," Graham added, referring to investigators' conclusion that Khashoggi's dismembered body was cut up with a bone saw.
In a separate interview Wednesday, outgoing U.S. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley told NBC, "We need to have a serious, hard talk with the Saudis to let them know we won't condone this, we won't give you a pass and don't do this again. And then I think that the administration has to talk about where we go from here."
Source: Voice of America