WASHINGTON — The Trump administration denied on Saturday that it had reached a final determination in the death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.
After President Donald Trump called his CIA chief and top diplomat from Air Force One as he flew to survey wildfire damage in California, the State Department released a statement saying "recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate."
American intelligence agencies have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, according to a U.S. official familiar with the assessment. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity Friday. The conclusion was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Saudi government has denied the claim.
Trump said that there will be a "very full report" on the Khashoggi killing released in the next few days, likely Tuesday, that will include "who did it."
Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement Saturday that the government was "determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable" and that "there remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder."
She said the department "will continue to seek all relevant facts" and consult with Congress and other nations "to hold accountable those involved in the killing."
Trump spoke earlier with CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Air Force One, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. She provided no details, but said the president has confidence in the CIA.
Trump told reporters before he left the White House for California that, when it came to the crown prince, "as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We're going to have to find out what they have to say."
In his remarks, the president spoke of Saudi Arabia as "a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development."
"I have to take a lot of things into consideration" when deciding what measures to take against the kingdom, he said.
The State Department statement noted the administration's recent actions against a number of Saudis, but also cited the need to maintain "the important strategic relationship" between the two allies.
The intelligence agencies' conclusion will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close U.S. ally for the killing. The administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.
Saudi Arabia's top diplomat has said the crown prince had "absolutely" nothing to do with the killing.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters traveling with him at a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua New Guinea that he could not comment on "classified information." He said Saturday "the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press, and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder."
The United States will "follow the facts," Pence said, while trying to find a way of preserving a "strong and historic partnership" with Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, was a columnist for the Post and often criticized the royal family. He was killed Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish and Saudi authorities say he was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he went there to get marriage documents.
This past week, U.S. intelligence officials briefed members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, and the Treasury Department announced economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the killing.
Among those targeted for sanctions were Mohammed al-Otaibi, the diplomat in charge of the consulate, and Maher Mutreb, who was part of the crown prince's entourage on trips abroad.
The sanctions freeze any assets the 17 may have in the U.S. and prohibit any Americans from doing business with them.
Also this past week, the top prosecutor in Saudi Arabia announced he will seek the death penalty against five men suspected in the killing. The prosecutor's announcement sought to quiet the global outcry over Khashoggi's death and distance the killers and their operation from the kingdom's leadership, primarily the crown prince.
Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said "the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups."
But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
As Maricopa County finishes up counting 12,000 outstanding ballots, one lesson has become clear from this past election: voter turnout was far higher than normal.
Statewide, turnout will likely end up coming to around 65 percent, a number that outstrips past midterm elections going back at least to 1998.
Turnout will certainly be high when compared to the last midterms in 2014, in which only 47 percent of registered voters participated.
And when the Coconino County Elections Office finished counting its ballots on Thursday evening, it had become clear that Coconino County was no different.
In the 2014 midterm elections, voter turnout in Coconino County was 53 percent, but that number rose to 67 percent during the 2018 elections. Turnout was so high, in fact, that voters broke the record for number of people voting in a midterm, according to the Coconino County Recorder’s Office.
These numbers even start to rival voter turnout during presidential elections; in 2016, the county saw 74 percent of voters come out to the polls. Additionally, while voter turnout reached 75 percent in the 2012 Presidental Election, 52,243 ballots were cast among 69,598 registered voters. While the turnout was 67 percent this year, the number of ballots cast surpassed 2012 at 55,948 of 83,239 registered voters.
Among the groups voting in higher numbers this election appears to be young people and students living on campus. Although overall numbers for the Northern Arizona Precinct were far lower than most other parts of the city, some university precincts received the turnout they had in 2014.
That year, of registered voters living on campus, only about 15 percent came out to the polls, but that number more than doubled this election when the three precincts on campus received about 41 percent voter turnout.
Some of this may be thanks to liberal groups like the super pack NextGen Arizona. That group, started by California billionaire Tom Steyer, worked to register as many as 21,000 mostly young voters statewide, 1,782 of which were in northern Arizona.
Citywide, average voter turnout was 64 percent, although sections of the city were far higher. The Coconino Estates area, for example, reached 84 percent voter turnout and the Cheshire and Shadow Mountain neighborhoods were similarly high with 81 and 80 percent turnout respectively.
On the other end of the spectrum, after NAU, was the Southside neighborhood and Sunnyside, which had 48 and 56 percent voter turnout respectively.
Across the board, an increase of voter participation means more votes to count. This may be most clear when looking at the race for Flagstaff City Council. This year, vice-mayor elect Adam Shimoni won 21 percent of the vote. In 2014, when councilmember Celia Barotz was elected to the position of vice-mayor, she similarly received 20 percent of the vote -- but in raw numbers, Barotz got 4,201 fewer votes than Shimoni did this year.
And the mayoral race is no different. When former mayor Jerry Nabours was elected to office in 2014, 15,476 ballots were cast, but this year, even with Coral Evans running essentially unopposed, 21,733 ballots were still cast in the mayoral race.
This increased amount of turnout seems to have been a boon for the Democrats, who traditionally have a harder time getting their voters out during the midterms.
For the city council, voters elected two Democrats and a business oriented independent. In Flagstaff's 1st, 2nd and 3rd Precincts around the downtown area, just north and east past Switzer Canyon Drive, the Democrat council candidates fared well.
Austin Aslan's percentages in the three precints came in between 22 and 23 percent and Adam Shimoni's brought in totals ranging from 23 to 29.5 percent. Those totals ended up well above the 18 and 21 percent they ended up with overall.
Likewise Dennis Lavin fared better in Flagstaff's 26th Precinct, which covers the area around the Flagstaff Mall and just north along Highway 89, reaching nearly 14 percent compared to his 9 percent total.
Regina Salas and Alex Martinez found strong support in Flagstaff's 10th and 11th Precincts along Milton Rd and in the space between Ponderosa Pkwy and Fourth St respectively. Salas, who finished with 18 percent overall, earned 20 and nearly 22 percent in the precincts while Martinez surpassed his near 14 percent overall total with 20 and 17 percent.
The city also overwhelmingly supported Democratic senator candidate Kyrsten Sinema. She received nearly 70 percent of the city’s votes and 61 percent across the county. Only in Country Club did her Republican opponent Martha McSally do relatively better, but she still lost there 55 to 41 percent.
Outside the city limits, the results looked somewhat different. Turnout was about as high in the precincts surrounding Flagstaff, but McSally ended up doing far better.
Although still losing 56 to 42 percent in the two Fort Valley precincts, McSally won the area east of Flagstaff along Interstate 40, receiving 57 percent of the vote, and Doney Park, where she received 54 percent.
The higher turnout may have been in part because it was somewhat easier to vote in Flagstaff this election. For the first time during a general election, the county elections office set up vote centers on Election Day at which people from any precinct could vote.
Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen said the vote centers worked well and were also used earlier this year for the primary election in August.
The idea was proposed by a citizens committee in 2017, Hansen said, who also suggested trying to transition all of Flagstaff to using only vote centers on Election Day, eliminating the need for voters to go to a specific precinct.
There are challenges to make vote centers work: the location picked has to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and have lots of parking, Hansen said.
Because of this, Hansen said in Flagstaff, schools are really the only locations fit to house such voting centers, but that would likely mean students getting Election Day off in future years.
Don't miss the Arizona Daily Sun's early Thanksgiving Edition, which will be available in stores and on newsstands by dinner Wednesday evening. It's our biggest paper of the year, and here's why:
-- Multiple advertising circulars for Thanksgiving and Black Friday specials, with coupon savings totaling hundreds of dollars
-- A chance to win up to $5,000 in our Thanksgiveaway contest, including three local $100 winners
-- Two full pages of Flagstaff's history during Thanksgiving
-- Two full pages of holiday season movie releases and the top 20 greatest movie biopics.
-- Movie previews in an early Sneak Peaks for the long Thanksgiving weekend
-- Sports: A look at one of the fall season's top athletes
-- And much, much more....
The Arizona Daily Sun will be closing early at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, with the office closed on Thursday and Friday.