WATCH: Psaki Grilled on Whether ‘Justice Has Really Been Done’ When It Comes To the 'Brutal Murder’ of Khashoggi


White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is defending President Joe Biden’s reported decision not to take action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in response to a U.S. intelligence report that found he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

CNN’s Dana Bash noted that then-candidate Biden vowed to hold Saudi leaders accountable for the murder of Khashoggi and asked why he is not taking action against the crown prince even after a U.S. intelligence report determined that he ordered the killing of Khashoggi in 2018.

Psaki argued that the release of the intelligence report was part of the effort to hold Saudi officials accountable. She also pointed to new sanctions of other officials connected to the killing.

However, Dana Bash argued, “Isn’t punishing them like punishing the hitman and not the mob boss who actually put out the hit?”

Psaki noted that the U.S. typically does not sanction the leaders of a country and argued that there are “more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” while leaving open the door for diplomacy.

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“You say ‘hold them accountable’ and it just doesn’t look like that when it comes to the notion of justice,” Bash retorted.

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She continued, “The question is do you feel like justice has really been done when it comes specifically to the crown prince and his role in the brutal murder of a journalist, because the journalist was working on stories that were challenging him?”

Psaki said the murder of Khashoggi was a “horrific crime,” but stressed that, “It needs to be clear that our relationship with Saudi Arabia is one that is in the interest of the United States to maintain.”

She also vowed the U.S. will hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights abuses. 

On Friday, a U.S. intelligence report was released that found that the crown prince ordered an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi. The Biden administration announced new sanctions on some officials involved, but not on the crown prince. 

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