October 22, 2018 / 2:36 PM / 25 days ago

U.S. in 'fact-finding phase' on Khashoggi: Kushner

FILE PHOTO: White House senior advisor Jared Kushner listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a dinner to honor evangelical leadership in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said on Monday the United States is still in a fact-finding phase on the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and has its “eyes wide open.”

Kushner, who has a close relationship with powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deflected questions in a CNN interview about whether he trusted the Saudis to investigate themselves.

Saudi Arabia has given shifting explanations about what happened to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and strong critic of the crown prince, after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Riyadh confirmed on Saturday he was dead and said he was killed in a fight in the building.

“We’re getting facts in from multiple places and once those facts come in, the secretary of state will work with our national security team to help us determine what we want to believe, and what we think is credible and what we think is not credible,” Kushner said.

Turkey’s ruling party said on Monday that Khashoggi was the victim of a “monstrously planned” murder, as Western incredulity deepened over varying Saudi accounts of the journalist’s disappearance.

Asked whether he thought the Saudis had been deceptive, Kushner said he sees deceptive things every day.

“We have our eyes wide open. The president’s focused on what’s good for America, what are our strategic interests, where do we share interests with other countries let’s work towards those,” Kushner said.

Kushner stressed that Saudi Arabia was an important ally of the United States, especially in countering Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

Kushner also said he had advised the crown prince: “Just to be transparent, to be fully transparent. The world is watching. This is a very, very serious accusation and a very serious situation.” Asked how the prince responded to that, Kushner said, “We’ll see.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Alistair Bell

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