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CIA concludes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered killing of Khashoggi

'The claims in this purported assessment are false,' said the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the crown prince's brother.
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The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a person briefed on the CIA’s assessment.

The CIA declined to comment Friday night.

The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the matter, first reported the assessment, stating that the CIA made its conclusion with "high confidence." Khashoggi, a U.S. resident from Saudi Arabia, was a Washington Post opinion contributor critical of the crown prince's regime.

NBC News was unable to confirm the agency's description of its confidence level. Other details of the report, including that Prince Khalid Bin Salman, brother of the crown prince, told Khashoggi in an intercepted phone call that he should go to the consulate in Istanbul to get the divorce document he was seeking, also could not be immediately confirmed.

Khashoggi was killed after he entered that consulate Oct. 2.

NBC News reported previously that Khashoggi met with Prince Khalid Bin Salman, Saudi ambassador to the U.S., at the Embassy in Washington months before he was killed.

That meeting came as the Saudi government was trying to lure him back to Saudi Arabia — at first peacefully, and then through force — ending in his murder in the Istanbul consulate.

Khalid bin Salman responded to the Post's report via Twitter: "As we told the Washington Post the last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct 26 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim."

And the Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a statement, "The claims in this purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations."

NBC News had also reported previously that the U.S. intelligence community believes it's unlikely that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could have had no connection to Khashoggi’s death.

The CIA's assessment will likely add pressure on the Trump administration to unleash further punishment on Saudi Arabia despite the president's cordial ties to the royal family there.

On Thursday the United States announced sanctions against 17 Saudi Arabian officials in response to the killing.

Speaking to reporters before flying to California on Saturday, President Donald Trump reiterated that he had been told the crown prince had not played a role in the journalist's death.

"We haven't been briefed yet," Trump said when asked about reports of the CIA assessment. "We will be talking with the CIA later and lots of others. I'll be doing that while I'm on the plane. I'll be speaking also with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo."

In his remarks outside the White House, the president spoke of Saudi Arabia as "a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development."

"I have to take a lot of things into consideration" when deciding what measures to take against the kingdom, Trump said.