WASHINGTON–Following a closed-door briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday, top Senate Republicans said they had no doubt that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The GOP senators’ certainty of the crown prince’s involvement in the murder breaks with the narrative from White House national security officials and President Donald Trump that perhaps Salman was not involved.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham offered the most searing words against Salman, calling him a “wrecking ball,” “dangerous,” and “crazy.”
“There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” said Graham, referring to the reported bone saw that was used to dismember Khashoggi after he was tortured and murdered. “You’d have to be woefully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was organized by people under the command of [Salman].”
Portions of the CIA assessment of Khashoggi’s murder had previously been leaked, reportedly concluding that the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi, which occurred October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Remarks made by Graham, GOP Senator Bob Corker and GOP Senator Richard Shelby were direct rebukes to Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Pompeo told reporters last week following a briefing with senators that there was “no direct reporting” the crown prince was involved while Mattis said there was “no smoking gun.” The absence of Haspel at last week’s meeting to provide CIA intelligence angered both Republicans and Democrats.
Trump has suggested that he’s taken the crown prince’s word that he did not order Khashoggi to be killed over that of his own intelligence community, saying in a November 20 statement that “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” murder the journalist.
Graham added that if Salman was going to be runnning the Saudi government for the foreseeable future, it would become “very difficult [for the U.S.] to do business” with the Middle Eastern country, saying he could not support America’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The country is a “strategic ally” whose “relationship is worth saving,” Graham said, “but not at all costs.”
“We’ll do more damage to our standing in the world and our national security by ignoring [Salman] than dealing with him.”
Corker suggested that if Salman “went in front of a jury, he’d be convicted in 30 minutes.” The Tennessee senator said that, following the CIA briefing, there was “no question whatsoever” the crown prince ordered the journalist’s murder.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.