U.S. faces growing pressure to punish Saudi prince

REPORTER: "What more needs to happen for the U.S. to consider sanctioning the crown prince?"

The Biden administration faced tough questions and growing pressure to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after the U.S. sanctioned some Saudi officials but not the crown prince.

WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN JEN PSAKI: "We reserve the right to take any action at a time and manner of our choosing."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday the U.S. could sanction the crown prince in the future if necessary.

REPORTER: "What is the 'if necessary'?"

At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was focused on fixing "systemic issues" in Saudi Arabia and improving its human rights record rather than sanctioning its de facto ruler.

PRICE: "We are very focused on future conduct, and that is part of why we have cast this not as a rupture, but a recalibration."

Both Psaki and Price said the U.S. sanctions spared the crown prince himself in an effort to preserve relations with the kingdom.

CALLAMARD: "I am calling on the U.S. to act.."

But U.N. human rights investigator Agnes Callamard said earlier on Monday that it was "extremely dangerous" for the U.S. to have named MbS in a declassified report as having approved the operation to capture or kill the Washington Post journalist but not to have taken action against him.

CALLAMARD: "It is extremely, in my view, problematic if not dangerous."

The 35-year-old prince has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s killing, for which eight people were jailed in Saudi Arabia last year.

Saudi Arabia's U.N. ambassador said on Monday that the U.S. intelligence report that implicated the crown prince in the brutal killing had presented no firm evidence, but added: "The Prince courageously accepted moral responsibility, presented the accused to the justice system, and pledged to reform the intelligence organizations. Case closed!"

Video Transcript

- What more needs to happen for the US to consider sanctioning the crown prince?

- The Biden administration faced tough questions and growing pressure to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after the US sanctioned some Saudi officials, but not the crown prince.

WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN JEN PSAKI: We reserve the right to take any action at a time and manner of our choosing.

- White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that the US could sanction the crown prince in the future.

- What is the "if necessary"?

- At the State Department, Spokesman Ned Price said the US was focused on fixing, quote, "systemic issues" in Saudi Arabia and improving its human rights record, rather than sanctioning its de facto ruler.

WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN NED PRICE: We are very focused on future conduct. And that is part of why we have cast this not as a rupture, but a recalibration.

- Both Price and Psaki said the US sanctions spared the crown prince himself in an effort to preserve relations with the kingdom.

AGNES CALLAMARD: I am calling on the US government to act.

- But UN human rights investigator Agnes Callamard said earlier on Monday that it was extremely dangerous for the US to have named the crown prince in a declassified report as having approved the operation to capture or kill the Washington Post journalist, but not to have taken action against him.

AGNES CALLAMARD: It is extremely, in my view, problematic if not dangerous.

- The 35-year-old prince has denied any involvement in the 2018 killing for which eight people were jailed in Saudi Arabia last year. The kingdom's UN ambassador said on Monday that the US intelligence report that implicated the crown prince in the killing had presented no firm evidence, but added, quote, "The prince courageously accepted moral responsibility, presented the accused to the justice system, and pledged to reform the intelligence organizations. Case closed."