US Senators Say Saudi Crown Prince ‘Involved’ in Khashoggi Murder
Post CIA briefing, Senators said they were “more convinced” about the Crown Prince’s role in Khashoggi’s murder.
Breaking with President Donald Trump, senators leaving a briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday, 4 December, said they are even more convinced that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, R-Tenn, said he believes if the crown prince was put on trial, a jury would find him guilty in "about 30 minutes."
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who demanded the briefing with Haspel, said there is "zero chance" the crown prince wasn't involved in Khashoggi's death.
“There’s not a smoking gun. There’s a smoking saw,” Graham said, referring to reports from the Turkish government that said Saudi agents used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi after he was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Graham said "you have to be willfully blind" not to conclude that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the crown prince's command.
Trump has equivocated over who is to blame for the killing, frustrating senators who are now looking for ways to punish the longtime Middle East ally. The Senate overwhelmingly voted last week to move forward on a resolution curtailing US backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
It's unclear whether or how that resolution will move forward. The vote last week allowed the Senate to debate the measure, which could happen as soon as next week, but senators are still in negotiations on whether to amend it and what it should say.
Haspel met with a small group of senators, including leadership and the chairpersons and top Democrats on the key national security committees, after senators in both parties complained that she didn't attend an all-Senate briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last week.
Pompeo and Mattis tried to dissuade senators from punishing Saudi Arabia with the resolution, saying US involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration’s broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East.
The two men also echoed Trump's reluctance to blame the crown prince. Pompeo said there was "no direct reporting" connecting the crown prince to the murder, and Mattis said there was "no smoking gun" making the connection.
After that briefing, Graham threatened to withhold his vote on key legislation until he heard from Haspel. "I'm not going to blow past this," he said. That afternoon, senators frustrated with the briefing and the lack of response to Khashoggi's killing overwhelmingly voted to move forward with consideration of the Yemen resolution, 63-37.
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin said the briefing with Haspel "clearly went in to an evaluation of the intelligence" and was much more informative than the session with Mattis and Pompeo.
"I went in believing the crown prince was directly responsible or at least complicit in this and my feelings were strengthened by the information we were given," Durbin said.
Durbin joined Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in calling for a full-Senate briefing from Haspel. "Every senator should hear what I heard this afternoon," Durbin said.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a critic of Saudi Arabia, said that excluding some lawmakers is "the very definition of the deep state" and that he suspected that the Trump administration is attempting to get some lawmakers to switch their votes on the resolution by giving them information.
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