White House press secretary explains decision to request immunity for crown prince in killing of Khashoggi

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained the Biden administration’s decision to request immunity for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman in lawsuits over his alleged role in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

“So, look, again, this is immunity. Determination is a legal one. That’s what I was laying out earlier. The United States consistently has afforded head of state immunity to heads of government, such as prime ministers consistent with customary institutional law,” Jean-Pierre said. “U.S. practice on this issue is longstanding and consistent, including a number of head of state immunity cases from the past four administrations.”

Her comments come after the State Department made the determination on Thursday that Prince Mohammed, also referred to as MBS, should be immune from lawsuits over his alleged role in the death of Khashoggi.

The State Department called the decision “purely a legal determination,” citing longstanding precedent on the issue.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION REQUESTS IMMUNITY FOR SAUDI CROWN PRINCE IN KHASHOGGI KILLING: ‘BEYOND IRONIC’

President Biden being welcomed by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Alsalam Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 15. The prince reportedly mocked Biden in private and said he is unimpressed with him.
(Royal Court of Saudi Arabia / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In the filing, the State Department said that it “takes no view on the merits of the present suit and reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

When President Biden was running for his current office in 2019, he said that he planned to make a “pariah” of Saudi leaders over Khashoggi’s death. He made the comments during a Democratic primary debate in 2019.

BIDEN CONFRONTS SAUDI CROWN PRINCE ON KHASHOGGI KILLING

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre talks to reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

At a 2019 CNN town hall, Biden called the incident “flat-out murder.”

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Biden’s meeting Monday with Xi was the first time the two have met since Biden became president.
(AP/Alex Brandon)

“And I think we should have nailed it as that. I publicly said at the time we should treat it that way and there should be consequences relating to how we deal with those — that power,” Biden said.

Fox News’ Elizabeth Pritchett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.