Members of the U.S. Senate exerted more pressure on the Trump administration Thursday to turn over all documents regarding the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the administration remains silent on the issue of who ordered the killing.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, requesting records about whether any top-ranking Saudi official or member of the royal family, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), was responsible for Khashoggi's killing.
"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is committed to pursuing all information available in its oversight role and, to that end, is in the process of arranging a classified briefing for the committee," Risch said in a statement.
Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives in the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Initially denying and later downplaying the incident as an accidental killing in a fistfight, almost three weeks after the disappearance, Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated action but denied any involvement of the royal family. The incident was blamed on lower level officials.
A Saudi public prosecutor's spokesman said that 21 Saudis had been taken into custody over the case, 11 of whom had been indicted and referred to trials. The prosecutor has said that the authorities were seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez also sent a letter to Pompeo, demanding he brief Congress regarding last week's missed deadline to report to Congress on whether the royal family and crown prince were behind the Khashoggi's murder.
Commenting on the senators' letters, a state department representative stressed that Pompeo had provided an update to foreign relations officials Friday and would continue to consult with Congress.
However, in an interview Wednesday, Pompeo hesitated to say whether he believed the CIA's assessment that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's killing, purporting that he stood by Trump's previous commentary denying MBS's role in the murder.
Dismissing multiple questions surrounding whether the crown prince ordered the assassination or not, Pompeo replied with similar answers.
"That's a ridiculous question," he said. "There is no nation that acts against violations of human rights in the way the American nation does, and President Trump has been at the forefront of doing that as well."
Although Pompeo said the murder was unacceptable, he reiterated that Washington has a close relationship with Riyadh, adding that he plans to make sure that relationship is a successful one. Pompeo further noted that the U.S. had already applied sanctions to a number of people who were involved in the incident.