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Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The report released Friday on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was 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.

Go deeper

Feb 25, 2021 - World

Biden holds first call with Saudi Arabia's King Salman

King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Egypt in 2019. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

President Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Thursday, and affirmed "the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law," according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Why it matters: The phone call comes ahead of the expected public release of a potentially damning intelligence report about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi,

Feb 26, 2021 - World

Biden's big Saudi reset

Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty

President Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia's King Salman this evening ahead of the release of a CIA report expected to implicate the king's son, and the kingdom's de facto ruler, in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Why it matters: In one month, Biden has ended support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen, frozen a large arms deal and snubbed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) by declining to speak with him directly.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.