The report released Friday on the murder of Jamal Khashoggiwas short on evidence or new information, but Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tells Axios that the “definitive” statement assigning responsibility to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) speaks volumes.
What he’s saying: Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, says that while some intelligence couldn’t be published because of the need to protect sources and methods, “we rarely see something published that is this definitive and I think that's an important accomplishment for the administration.”
- "I think it's a very accurate summary of what we know, and I was pleased that it was as forthcoming as it was. It really held nothing back in terms of attributing the capture/kill operation to the crown prince,” he said.
From the report: “We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
- Asked about the “capture or kill” language, Schiff told Axios: "I think you should read it as meaning that the team the crown prince dispatched had his approval to either capture him, if that was either possible or desirable, or to kill him. And either outcome would have been satisfactory to the crown prince."
The other side: The Saudi foreign ministry has vehemently rejected the report, and some pro-Saudi voices have seized on the fact that it doesn’t contain a “smoking gun.”
- "I don't know that I would use the standard of smoking guns,” Schiff said. “The intelligence community does not usually speak in such definitive terms without high confidence in its judgements.”
What’s next: “I think the focus now is what are the repercussions that should follow. I've urged the administration to make sure that those repercussions apply to anyone involved and that includes the man who gave the orders," Schiff said.
Between the lines: The Biden administration announced sanctions Friday in response to Khashoggi’s murder, but declined to directly target MBS.