The reported phone call with President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser John Bolton allegedly took place before Saudi Arabia publicly acknowledged that Khashoggi had been killed in its consulate in Istanbul.
Citing people familiar with the call, the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that the crown prince said Khashoggi belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood – outlawed by Riyadh and its Arab allies – and urged Kushner and Bolton to preserve the US-Saudi alliance.
Saudi Arabia has denied the media reports.
A critic of Mohammed bin Salman’s reform programme in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate on October 2.
The kingdom has faced international condemnation for the journalist’s murder and its shifting official accounts of his disappearance last month.
Saudi authorities initially stated the journalist left the consulate, before backtracking and admitting on October 20 he was killed by “rogue” operatives.
“The attempt to criticise Khashoggi in private,” the Post noted, “stands in contrast to the Saudi government’s later public statement decrying his death as a ‘terrible mistake’ and ‘terrible tragedy'”.
The slain journalist’s family issued a statement to the paper, stating that the crown prince’s characterisation of Khashoggi was inaccurate.
“Jamal Khashoggi was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He denied such claims repeatedly over the past several years,” the family said.
“Jamal Khashoggi was not a dangerous person in any way possible. To claim otherwise would be ridiculous.”
According to the Post, Kushner has been lobbying on behalf of the heir to the Saudi throne and has emphasised the strategic importance of the US-Saudi alliance.
Some officials at the US State Department however said they are considering a range of disciplinary measures, including a demand to end the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar or wind down the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-UAE military coalition is fighting the country’s Houthi rebels.
“Officials cautioned that no decision has been made, and Trump has expressed little desire to significantly alter US-Saudi relations, but there is an interest in a full vetting of the potential options,” the Post said.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia alongside the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar, which they accuse of supporting terrorism, including the Muslim Brotherhood group.
Saudi Arabia listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in March 2014 alongside Jabhat al-Nusra – currently known as Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham – and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The late Saudi King Abdullah decreed prison terms of up to 20 years for belonging to “terrorist groups” and fighting abroad.
But analysts say the relationship between Saudi Arabia – which has at times tolerated and abetted the loosely defined political movement – and the group is more nuanced.
They say Riyadh has historically sought to make use of the movement to advance its interests in the region.
Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the classification of the Brotherhood at the time, in its entirety, as a terror group “problematic”.