US President Donald Trump declined to meet a Friday deadline to report to the Senate on whether the White House believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, also known as MBS, ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A senior administration official told US media that the president maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests.
Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist known for his critical writing on the Saudi government, was killed on October 2, 2018, after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His body was dismembered and has not yet been found.
Initially, Saudi Arabia, a US ally, denied any involvement in the killing. But following a series of contradictory statements, the kingdom admitted that a team of Saudi agents killed the writer inside the consulate.
The CIA report concluded that MBS ordered the murder, a finding the crown prince denies.
The killing was followed by weeks of rage with Western politicians demanding that Saudi Arabia be held accountable for the murder.
A bipartisan group of US Senators triggered the terms of the Global Magnitsky Act on October 10, 2018, which required the president to investigate and determine if a foreign person is responsible for Khashoggi’s death within 120 days. The White House had until Friday to submit their report.
Although the White House has sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals for their involvement in the murder, including two top aides to MBS, members of Congress have called for greater action to be taken against the kingdom and its leaders.
“President Trump has steadfastly insisted the US-Saudi relationship is more important than establishing accountability for murder,” said Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington, DC.