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Trump dismisses CIA finding that MBS ordered Khashoggi killing as 'feelings'

US president says CIA 'did not come to a conclusion' on whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered journalist's killing
Donald Trump spoke to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Thursday (AFP)

Donald Trump has dismissed the CIA's reported finding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, in the latest example of the US president contradicting his country's intelligence agency.

Speaking to reporters from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Thursday, Trump said the CIA had "feelings" about who ordered the Saudi journalist's killing, but never came to a firm conclusion.

"They didn’t conclude," he said, as reported by Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

"I am sorry. No, they didn’t conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways. They have not concluded, I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to conclude the crown prince did it."

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However, the Washington Post reported on Friday that the CIA had collected multiple sources of intelligence indicating the Saudi crown prince, also known as MBS, issued the instructions for Khashoggi's killing.

The New York Times also reported that the US intelligence agency's finding was reinforced by "two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince's calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince".

On Thursday, in what appears to add even more pressure on the crown prince, Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News reported that the CIA has a recording of a phone call in which MBS gave instructions to "silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible".

That revelation "is big," said Karen Attiah, Khashoggi's editor at the Washington Post, where he wrote a regular column. "The CIA is showing that it is willing to take on Trump— and MBS," Attiah tweeted.

Despite this, however, Trump reaffirmed on Thursday that MBS, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, "vehemently" denies having had any knowledge of the murder or its subsequent cover-up.

“I hate the crime, I hate the cover-up. I will tell you this: The crown prince hates it more than I do, and they have vehemently denied it,” Trump said, as reported by the Washington Post.

MBS was in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, his first trip abroad since Khashoggi's murder (AFP)

Trump repeatedly casts doubt on CIA findings

Trump's latest comments come only a few days after he released an incendiary written statement, pledging Washington's continued support for MBS and his father, Saudi King Salman, despite the "unacceptable and horrible crime" committed against Khashoggi.

A Saudi government critic and prominent Washington Post columnist, the Saudi journalist was killed inside his country's consulate in Istanbul on 2 October after he entered the building to retrieve paperwork.

In his statement, released by the White House on Tuesday, Trump said both MBS and King Salman deny having played any part in the crime. "But it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!" Trump said.

Asked who should be held accountable for Khashoggi's murder on Thursday, the US president once again refused to place blame on Saudi leaders, the Washington Post reported.

“Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a very, very vicious place,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, the Saudi crown prince made his first trip outside of the Gulf kingdom since Khashoggi's murder on Thursday, landing in the nearby United Arab Emirates.

MBS was pictured smiling alongside the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, who tweeted that "the UAE will always be a loving and supportive home for our brothers in Saudi Arabia".

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