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February 19, 2019

Jamal Khashoggi murder: Trump fails to respond to Congress request

A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. /REUTERS
A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. /REUTERS

The Trump administration has refused to respond to a request from Congress to provide a report determining who killed the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Senators wrote in October demanding the murder be investigated and that the White House give more information.

An administration official said the president was within his rights to decline to act.

Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year.

He was a strong critic of the Saudi government. His body was reportedly dismembered and has still not been found.

US intelligence officials have reportedly said such an operation would have needed the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But Saudi officials insist he was murdered by a "rogue" team of Saudi agents not acting on the prince's orders.

An administration statement said Mr Trump "maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate".

However, Democratic senators told the New York Times the president was in breach of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which requires a response within 120 days to requests from Senate committee leaders.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has written to Senate leaders describing actions taken against individuals.

The documents though did not indicate who was responsible for Khashoggi's death, as demanded by the senators.

The US has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the crown prince who it alleged was "part of the planning and execution of the operation" that led to Khashoggi's murder.

But Mr Trump has faced criticism from senators for failing to condemn the crown prince directly.

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