The US Department of Justice said in a filing before a US district court that it had initiated a “decision-making process” about whether it would file a statement of interest in the case but that it would not be able to comply with the court’s requested deadline of 1 August.
“The United States is diligently considering the Court’s inquiry but the process for doing so requires consultation among multiple entities within the Executive Branch with respect to complex issues of international and domestic law,” the filing said.
The judge in the case granted the US government its request and gave it until 3 October to submit a statement of interest.
The request comes just days after US president Joe Biden returned from a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia in which he met with MBS and claimed to have raised Khashoggi’s murder in a private conversation with the crown prince.
Biden promised on the presidential election campaign trail to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” in the wake of the murder, and refused to personally acknowledge the crown prince’s role as de facto ruler of Saudi until his recent visit.
Biden said after his meeting with MBS that he had confronted the crown prince about Khashoggi’s murder and suggested he told the prince that he held him personally responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. But Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, said he “didn’t hear” Biden say that. In response to that claim, Biden said Al-Jubeir’s account was dishonest.
Al-Jubeir also alleged in a recent interview that Saudi Arabia cared deeply about human rights and maintained the official Saudi position that the Khashoggi killing – which investigations have shown was premeditated – was a rogue operation that occurred without the knowledge of MBS.
John Bates, a district court judge, said in early July that he was inviting the US government to weigh in on legal questions about whether the trial should go forward, and whether the US had an interest in the case.
He also said he would hold a hearing on 31 August after motions to dismiss the civil case by Prince Mohammed and others.
The motions to dismiss the civil case rest on claims by MBS lawyers that the DC court lacks jurisdiction over the crown prince.
In his response to the government’s filing, Judge Bates said he welcomed the parties in the case until 20 July to state their views on whether the 31 August hearing should be delayed.