The report’s conclusion was not expected to be a surprise. Here’s why it matters.

The US intelligence community just released a report on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Its basic conclusion was not expected to be a surprise.

Shortly after Khashoggi’s October 2018 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the CIA assessed with high confidence that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had personally ordered the murder. In June 2019, a United Nations investigator found that it was “inconceivable” the royal heir hadn’t been aware of the operation.

Then-President Trump, however, refused to condemn the Saudi prince, even after it became clear that Saudi Arabia’s initial claims that Khashoggi’s killing was a rogue operation were baseless. Instead, Trump dismissed intelligence that the prince had had a hand in the killing, saying that “maybe he did, maybe he didn’t,” and stressing that billions of dollars in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia weren’t worth sacrificing over the matter.

In contrast, President Biden declared during a November 2019 Democratic presidential candidates’ debate that “Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince.”

What the report’s release means: The report’s release will be just the latest shift Biden is making, with support from Congress, in relations with US ally Saudi Arabia. Democratic lawmakers are expected to introduce a resolution on Friday to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment as well as other human rights violations. 

Biden and administration officials have stressed that they are committed to the kingdom’s security. At the same time, the President has ended US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen launched by the crown prince six years ago. Biden has also ordered an end to some weapons sales to the kingdom and will soon release the report, which is expected to highlight the prince’s lawless abuse of fundamental human rights.