US senators accused President Donald Trump of putting "Saudi Arabia first" in his decision to not take punitive measures against the kingdom or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump accused of putting "Saudi Arabia first"

Trump's decision is "yet another fawning prostration to a foreign authoritarian", Democratic Senator Tim Kaine tweeted on Tuesday.

"It's only a matter of time until actions like this one by the president directly threaten our security," he added.

In a statement issued by the White House, Trump said the US intends to remain a "steadfast partner" of Saudi Arabia - even though "it could very well be" that Prince Mohammed had knowledge of Khashoggi's killing.

"We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Trump said.

He added he did not intend to cancel military deals with the kingdom, saying "if we foolishing cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries".

Trump's comments came despite pressure from US politicians who have called on the administration to do more to hold Saudi Arabia accountable. That pressure mounted following US media reports on Friday that said the CIA concluded Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, ordered Khashoggi's murder.

In his statement, Trump said it "could be very well that the crown prince had knowlege of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

Later on Tuesday, the president added the CIA assessment of the intelligencie surrounding the murder is not "definitive".

Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 when he went there to pick up documents needed for his planned marriage.

A critic of the Saudi government, Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh for him to return home.

Saudi Arabia initially rejected its nationals were behind the killing, but as Turkish authorities continued to leak evidence of high-level involvement, Riyadh eventually admitted its agents carried out the killing with a series of contradictory explanations.

Saudi Arabia's deputy public prosecutor has said he was seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in Khashoggi's killing. He told reporters the Saudi crown prince knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered and removed from the consulate. The corpse has yet to be recovered.


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