After meeting with CIA Director Gina Haspel for a closed-door briefing Tuesday on the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a bipartisan group of lawmakers emerged steadfast in their belief that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.
“There is not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters, appearing to allude to reports that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered with a bone saw after he was murdered upon entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2.
Graham added he believes bin Salman is complicit in the killing “to the highest level possible” and “you have to be willfully blind” not to see the connection, according to a New York Times report.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee echoed Graham’s beliefs, telling reporters after the meeting that there’s “no question in my mind” bin Salman ordered the death of Khashoggi, whose writings were often critical of the crown prince and the Saudi kingdom.
Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said Haspel’s hourlong briefing did nothing to change his mind that bin Salman is directly responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, who was a Washington Post contributor and legal resident of the U.S. at the time of his death.
This stance contradicts the one President Donald Trump decided to take, in which he’s not only refused to condemn bin Salman, but defended him even after the CIA reportedly found the crown prince ordered the assassination.
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Trump said in a Nov. 20 statement. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Middle East experts guessed Trump’s hesitation stems from the relationship the White House fostered with Saudi Arabia and the important position the U.S. has given the kingdom in the Middle Eastern region. (RELATED: Saudi Crown Prince Unlikely To Face Adequate Repercussions For Role In Khashoggi Murder, Experts Say)
This is also a possible explanation for why Trump refused to listen to the audio recording that alleged to show parts of Khashoggi’s murder, as well as the voice of one of the Saudi agents making a reference to a superior that’s purportedly bin Salman.
“The White House wants to do as little as possible so it doesn’t nuke the relationship here,” American Foreign Policy Council Senior Vice President Ilan Berman told The Daily Caller News Foundation after Trump declined to hear the tape.
“There’s probably a way to signal our displeasure and force the Saudis to reform in a meaningful way without destroying everything we’ve built so far.”
GOP Sen. Rand Paul expressed frustration Tuesday regarding the Khashoggi matter after he was “excluded” from Haspel’s briefing, referencing the so-called deep state.
“I’ve read in the media that the CIA has said with high confidence that the crown prince was involved with killing Khashoggi. I have not seen that intelligence nor have I even seen the conclusions,” Paul said on “America’s Newsroom.”
“And today there’s yet another briefing and I’m being excluded. So really, this is the deep state at work … that your representatives don’t know what is going on in the intelligence agencies.”
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