How Can Trump Accept the Saudis’ Word? There’s Little Midterm Price to Pay

Mr. King said the Saudi account raised several unanswered questions, like how Mr. Khashoggi, who was 59, would have ended up in a fistfight with a team of trained Saudi security personnel. “You really need 15 guys to get this guy?” he asked. “It’s not like he’s Mike Tyson.”

On Saturday, 55 lawmakers announced that they were preparing a letter to the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, asking to see American intercepts of communications in which Saudi officials discussed a plan to capture Mr. Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia and was a columnist for The Washington Post. They also asked Mr. Coats whether the United States had warned Mr. Khashoggi.

“The Saudi explanation just doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Representative Mark Pocan, Democrat of Wisconsin, who helped organize the letter. “Our concern is we are still not getting the truth.”

For the next few weeks, however, lawmakers will be scattered in their states and districts, putting off any action against Saudi Arabia until after the midterm elections. Mr. Trump broached the possibility of sanctions against Saudis, but he said he hoped that any punishment would not take the form of blocking billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Privately, Mr. Trump has told colleagues that he shares the skepticism that Mr. Khashoggi could have been killed without any high-level Saudi involvement. In the interview on Thursday, he expressed confidence about the intelligence he was getting about the episode — intelligence that makes a strong, if circumstantial, case that Prince Mohammed played a role.

“We’re working with the intelligence from numerous countries,” he said. “This is the best intelligence we could have.”

The intelligence agencies presented their assessment of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing to Mr. Trump, as well as lawmakers, in recent days, laying out an account that is at odds with the Saudi narrative. The agencies have accepted at least elements of the Turkish claim that Mr. Khashoggi was tortured and killed, according to an American official.

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