US senators: we're certain Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi's murder

Aaron Brown
December 5, 2018

After a classified briefing between lawmakers and the Central Intelligence Agency on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, senators united in a rare bipartisan agreement that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in the killing.

The CIA is reported to have concluded with "medium-to-high confidence" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "probably ordered" the assassination of Khashoggi by a team of Saudis in the country's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

"I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder ... zero question", Corker said.

"If MBS were in front of a jury he'd be convicted in less than 30 minutes".

"There is not a smoking gun, there is a smoking saw", Republican Senator Lindsay Graham told reporters, also after the briefing.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "is a wrecking ball". "There's a smoking saw", Graham said.

Like a previous stop in Tunis, the crown prince's visit has drawn criticism from political and academic circles in Algeria over the Saudi-led war in Yemen and Washington Post columnist Khashoggi's grisly murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'
Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'

The Trump administration has argued there is no "smoking gun" tying the prince to the murder, but Corker said Haspel presented the senators with information they hadn't heard before.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch ally of Trump, supports a Senate rebuke of the Saudi government, despite the Trump administration's reluctance to do it. "Now the question is how do you separate the Saudi Crown Prince and his group from the nation itself?"

Trump said Saudi Arabia had pledged to "spend and invest $450 billion in the United States", much of it "on the purchase of military equipment". "I'm not going to blow past this", he said.

Other senators, including Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) said the briefing confirmed their suspicions about bin Salman's involvement and agreed the U.S. must respond. He has consistently reminded the press that the crown prince told him he had nothing to do with Khashoggi's disappearance. Graham has also pushed for the Magnitsky Act sanctions issued against the 15 assassins to be extended to the crown prince as well.

In an interview with CNN last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they had no direct evidence to prove Prince Mohammed was behind the murder.

Graham said after the briefing that he would push for a nonbinding resolution that the crown prince was "complicit" in Khashoggi's murder. Frustrated with the administration's response, senators voted last week to move forward on a resolution curtailing US backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

They said the "whole world is certain that he ordered a awful crime against the journalist Jamal Khashoggi". "And yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals or with these countries".

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