There’s a growing list of top Senate Republicans who’ve come forward and said they believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national who was often critical of the royal family in his writing, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The CIA has reportedly concluded the Saudi crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, ordered the killing.
But President Donald Trump has forcefully defended the Saudi royal family over Khashoggi’s killing, and signaled he does not wish to punish Prince Mohammed over the incident. As a result, the president has been accused of siding with the Saudis over the US intelligence community.
Last week, senators expressed outrage over the fact CIA Director Gina Haspel was absent from a briefing on Khashoggi’s killing. Haspel was reportedly barred from attending by the Trump administration.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis attended the briefing. Both have largely embraced the president’s stance on the killing, and have avoided pointing any fingers at Prince Mohammed. Pompeo said there was no “direct reporting” that Prince Mohammed ordered the hit on Khashoggi, echoing Trump’s statement that “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”
Haspel ultimately briefed the Senate leadership on Khashoggi’s killing on Tuesday, but a number of senators were angry about the exclusive nature of the briefing.
After Tuesday’s briefing, key Republican senators said they were confident the crown prince ordered the killing, and signaled they intend to push for major changes to the US-Saudi partnership. In short, Trump’s position on Khashoggi has increasingly put him at odds with the GOP foreign policy establishment.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker emerged from Tuesday’s briefing with Haspel and said there’s “zero question” the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
“The royal family inside the country looks to what the president says and so do people in the region,” Corker told reporters on Tuesday. “And therefore I think it would appear to them and to people in the region that just based on what has been said, that someone like MBS can murder people and have immunity.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who attended Tuesday’s briefing, said he could no longer support US arms sales to the kingdom with Prince Mohammed as the de facto ruler.