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Saudi officials say Khashoggi body double was meant to fool the crown prince

The near-unanimous rejection of Saudi Arabia’s cover story by members of Congress and international leaders could threaten the U.S.-Saudi alliance and perhaps Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself. Nick Schifrin details the latest developments including the assertion by Saudi officials that those involved tried to hide the murder from the crown prince.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The evidence keeps building in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Newly released video shows a Saudi man who looks a little like Khashoggi leaving the consulate in the writer's clothes, apparently after his death.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After Jamal Khashoggi walked into Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate, he never walked out. But the Saudis tried to convince the world he did.

    Today, Turkish officials leaked to CNN video of Saudi official Mustafa al-Madani, wearing plaid and jeans, walking into the consulate two hours before Khashoggi. After Khashoggi's murder, he walks outside in Khashoggi's clothes and glasses, apparently trying to make it seem like his Khashoggi left the consulate alive.

    Saudi officials now say the intention wasn't only to fool Turkish CCTV cameras, but also fool Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on "FOX News Sunday."

  •  Adel Al-Jubeir:

    They made a mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate, and they tried to cover up for it.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Saudi officials now say Mohammed bin Salman, known widely as MBS, wanted his critics brought back to the kingdom, including Jamal Khashoggi.

    So a group of 15 Saudis flew to Istanbul for rendition, but not murder.

  •  Adel Al-Jubeir:

    This was an operation that was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    A Saudi official said the team confronted Khashoggi, but he refused to comply and there was — quote — "a quarrel and an altercation."

    Other Saudi officials have claimed the team put Khashoggi in a chokehold, covered his mouth, leading to his inadvertent death, and the cover-up and the body double video.

    Saudi officials say MBS was duped by his own people, including Deputy Intelligence Chief Major General Ahmed al-Assiri, royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, and security official Maher Mutreb, who was photographed outside the Istanbul consulate before and after Khashoggi's murder and near Mohammed bin Salman's side earlier this year.

    But Al-Jubeir said that all of that proves no connection to MBS.

  •  Adel Al-Jubeir:

    There weren't people closely tied to him who were involved in this operation. There were pictures of some security officers who may have been part of his security detail from time to time. But this is normal.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Turkish officials have kept up pressure by releasing the hit squad's names and passports, men identified by Saudi experts as royal guards, Special Forces, intelligence and air force officers.

    And Turkish officials say, after the murder, the Saudis called MBS' private office and his brother, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

    It's inconceivable that Mohammed bin Salman didn't know, said longtime Saudi defender Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C.:

    I find it impossible to believe that the crown prince wasn't involved. So, go after him and his inner circle. Save the alliance. I don't mind military sales, but I cannot do business with the current leadership. MBS, he's done to me.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker spoke on CNN.

  • Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.:

    But I don't think anybody believes that story. I can understand the president wanting to keep open channels. But I think those of us who — who want to speak directly to this know that it's just not credible.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The international reaction is equally withering.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for suspending Saudi arms sales.

  • Angela Merkel (through translator):

    There is an urgent need to clarify what happened. We are far from this having been cleared up and those responsible held to account.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After initially calling Saudi Arabia's story credible, today, President Trump said he wasn't satisfied and was waiting for a U.S. intelligence team to investigate.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They're coming back tonight and tomorrow, and I will know very soon. And I am not satisfied with what I have heard.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But in Riyadh today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin met MBS.

    And in a CNN forum, President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, urged everyone not to jump to conclusions.

  • Jared Kushner:

    We're obviously getting as many facts as we can from the different places, and then we will determine which facts are credible.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But there's more pressure on Saudi Arabia today than at any point since 9/11, in part because this has been made personal.

    This weekend, Khashoggi's fiancee posted a video of him on Twitter introducing himself, until…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    "They took your bodily presence," she wrote, "but your beautiful laugh will remain in my soul forever."

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will take a closer look at the effects of all this on U.S.-Saudi relations after the news summary.

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