Following a briefing by CIA director Gina Haspel Tuesday on the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, leading Republican senators told reporters that there was “zero question” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal murder.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said “I have zero question in my mind that the Crown Prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening. Planned it in advance. If he was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty,” Corker said.
Corker called the Trump administration’s claim that there is no direct evidence of the crown prince’s involvement “unacceptable.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw.”
“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” he said.
He went on: “If the Saudi government is going to be in the hands of this man, I find it very difficult to be able to do business because I think he’s crazy, I think he’s dangerous, and he has put the relationship at risk.”
Graham concluded that he can no longer support arms sales to the kingdom.
Given those comments, it appeared Haspel’s briefing would not help the administration win back support for its military aid to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
The fact that the briefing was limited to a small group angered several senators, including Republican allies of President Trump.
A furious Sen. Rand Paul lashed out at the closed-door briefing was taking place. The Kentucky Republican told reporters of the briefing, “We’re reading about it in the media.”
“I think it’s wrong for the CIA to have expressed a conclusion that the Crown Prince was involved with the killing of Khashoggi and then withhold that information,” he said.
He went on: “I think the time has come for the Senate to grab back foreign policy and say that, ‘you know what, the president, no president, this president, or the previous president has the power to take our country to war with Saudi Arabia and Yemen without the permission of the Senate.’”
He blasted the move as a sign of the “deep state,” tweeting, “Why shouldn’t every senator know what is going on? The deep state wants to keep everyone in the dark. This is just ridiculous!”