The CIA has obtained a phone call recording of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordering his brother to 'silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible', Hürriyet Daily News reported on Thursday.
According to a Hürriyet columnist, CIA Director Gina Haspel indicated during a trip to Ankara in October that the purported recording features a conversation between MBS and his brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The brothers were allegedly discussing the 'discomfort' stemming from Khashoggi’s public criticism of Riyadh's policies.
While Turkish media leaked the information about the alleged tape, the CIA reportedly concluded that it was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who ordered Khashoggi's killing. The CIA's findings prompted John Brennan, the agency's former director, to call for the US Congress to declassify the intelligence.
On Wednesday, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said that Donald Trump was 'happy to consider' proposals regarding sanctions against Riyadh. The US President himself said Tuesday that the CIA did not have any definitive answer on whether the crown prince had been aware of the prepared killing of the journalist.
The scandal surrounding Khashoggi's murder, which has drawn plenty of criticism from the international community, has reportedly prompted the royal family to seek replacing bin Salman, who is currently first in the line of succession. Riyadh rushed to dispel the rumours, however, with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir calling the reports 'outrageous' and 'totally unacceptable'.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Saudi Prosecutor's Office said that he was dismembered after being restrained and heavily drugged. Riyadh insists that Khashoggi's murder was a "rogue operation" and announced that it had arrested 21 suspects, including senior military officials, and charged 11 of them. Five suspects are facing the death penalty if they are found guilty.