The Trump administration signaled Friday that it might not meet a deadline to tell Congress whether it intended to sanction anyone for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Last fall, the Senate gave President Donald Trump 120 days — until the end of the day Friday, Feb. 8 — to determine who was responsible for the death of Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October and wasn’t seen again.
Senior Trump administration officials said Friday that the president has the ability to decline a congressional request when appropriate.
On Thursday, the State Department said that the administration had already taken action regarding Khashoggi’s killing by revoking the visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials and freezing the assets of 17 others.
Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His remains have still not been found.
After denying for several weeks that Khashoggi had been killed in the Saudi Consulate, Saudi Arabia later admitted the journalist had been killed by Saudi agents, and it indicted 11 people in his death.
Reported remark by prince
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Saudi crown prince said in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Khashoggi if the journalist did not return home and stop writing critically about the Saudi government.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir declined to comment on the Times story Friday, but told reporters in Washington that the prince did not order Khashoggi’s killing. Al-Jubeir has been meeting with members of Congress and also met Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Trump administration has said that it has no compelling evidence that the Saudi crown prince was directly involved in the killing of Khashoggi. However, the Senate, which is controlled by Trump’s Republican Party, unanimously adopted a resolution in December naming the crown prince as “responsible” for the slaying.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that a U.N. investigation into the killing of Khashoggi was needed. The comments came a day after a U.N. human rights expert, Agnes Callamard, said Saudi Arabia had undermined Turkey’s efforts to investigate the death.