Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

CIA Director to Brief Lawmakers on Saudi Journalist's Murder

CIA Director to Brief Lawmakers on Saudi Journalist's Murder

Leading U.S. senators said Tuesday they are more certain than ever that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is culpable in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Republican and Democratic senators said they would introduce legislation that would hold Mohammed bin Salman, who is close to President Trump, responsible for the death of the journalist.

Graham's rage about the crown prince's involvement was shared by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tennessee.

Corker was about as full-throated, saying, "If the Crown Prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes" - another clear rebuke to Trump's statement and Pompeo's and Mattis' suggestions that this is some kind of unknown.

As recently as Wednesday, Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo argued that the agency he used to head found "no direct reporting" that linked Mohammed to the murder as he urged senators not to advance a measure that would cut USA support for Saudi Arabia's military campaign in Yemen, which has drawn further scrutiny in the wake of Khashoggi's death.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said there is "zero chance" the crown prince wasn't involved in Khashoggi's death.

"There's not a smoking gun", said Graham, who then referred to reports that the Saudi team included a forensic expert who arrived with equipment to dismember Khashoggi's body.

The Virginia resident disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

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Graham said there was no doubt in his mind after Haspel's briefing.

"To let it stand, in essence allows somebody like MBS to continue with immunity which is inappropriate", Corker said, adding that the Trump administration "puts Congress in a place where now we feel like we need to speak out, that this can not stand".

Haspel is also expected to brief leaders and top committee members of the House within the next two weeks on Khashoggi's killing, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.

The Journal, the Post, and The New York Times have all reported that the Central Intelligence Agency has evidence Prince Mohammed exchanged 11 messages with his close aide Saud al-Qahtani, who allegedly oversaw the murder, just before and after it took place.

USA intelligence officials have concluded that the crown prince must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has been reluctant to pin the blame. Senators have moved to punish Saudi Arabia by advancing legislation to curtail USA backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Graham and Paul have also said they think Congress should block a pending arms deal with the kingdom.

The Yemen legislation could set up a bitter year-end Senate floor fight over US war powers.

Senators are "trying to figure out an amendment that a larger group of people could get behind that addresses this issue without undermining our national interests", Corker said.

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