WASHINGTON — There is no “smoking gun” linking the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Defense Secretary James Mattis said.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters Wednesday, Mattis said he reviewed all the evidence made available to U.S. officials the day it was given to him, much of it more than once, and that “we have no smoking gun that the crown prince was involved. Not the intelligence community or anyone else. There is no smoking gun.”
Mattis also said that although “there is no smoking gun, our position has not changed; we expect accountability” by those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
He said he did not listen to tapes shared by Turkey of the slaying that took place inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“I know what grim circumstances can be,” Mattis said. “We do not have the tapes; at least I am not aware that we do.”
Mattis said the killing was discussed Wednesday morning during a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended.
That meeting, which lasted over an hour, focused on the U.S. support of Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen as well as the murder, Mattis told reporters.
“Very penetrating (questions) from both sides,” Mattis said in describing the session. “We explained what we were doing, they explained, there were questions and various points of view on the murder and what we are doing in Yemen.”
He said the discussions were “good and pretty exhaustive” and that the discussion was thoughtful.
“Some expressed some frustration,” Mattis said. “In many cases it was heartfelt. It was also data-driven, what did we know, what did we not know.”
On other subjects, Mattis said Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea on Sunday was “a cavalier use of force” and “shows that Russia cannot be counted on to keep its word.”
Asked if there might be a show of force by NATO and the west, Mattis said, ”no, not right now.”
Mattis also said no new request has been received from the Department of Homeland Security to extend the deployment of active troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. That deployment is scheduled to end on Dec. 15.
“We meet daily. Every day we’re crossing off what we are doing, in some cases canceling certain things. And other things come up,” Mattis said. “So we are working it, a normal execution of tasks.”