U.S. senators blast Saudi prince over Khashoggi, after Central Intelligence Agency chief briefing

Michelle Bachelet United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York
Michelle Bachelet United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York

06 December, 2018

Their verdict came after a private briefing on the evidence from Gina Haspel, the Central Intelligence Agency director, and increased the prospect of financial consequences for the kingdom, such as cutting off United States military aid for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Two key U.S. Republican senators said Tuesday after a briefing by the CIA's director that they have "zero" doubt Saudi Arabia's crown prince directed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Corker suggested that President Donald Trump had condoned the murder of a journalist by refusing to condemn the Saudi crown prince.

"I'm not going to destroy the world economy and I'm not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia", the president said.

Mattis and Pompeo have defended the strategic relationship and downplayed the crown prince's ties to the murder. "I can foresee a circumstance where a bunch of amendments might be voted down and at some point, [Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's] got to move to a vote on the underlying resolution", Murphy said.

"If someone is saying that Secretary Mattis or Secretary Pompeo were dishonest, they just don't know those individuals", Stewart said.

The reference to the saw was the bone-saw the killers had used to dismember Khashoggi's body. "There's a smoking saw", Graham said.

Pompeo and Mattis tried to dissuade senators from punishing Saudi Arabia with the resolution, saying USA involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration's broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East.

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Senators were eager to hear directly from Haspel about what officials have described as the CIA's conclusion that Prince Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi's killing, the Times said.

But the White House's decision to make Haspel available-though only to a small group of recalcitrant senators-has backfired again, since it whetted the appetite of more senators for a briefing of their own.

The Tennessee Republican added: "If he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes".

The prosecutor's office has concluded there is "strong suspicion" that Saud al-Qahtani and General Ahmed al-Asiri, both removed from their positions in October, were among the planners of Khashoggi's Oct. 2 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the officials said.

The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul, has strained Saudi Arabia's ties with the West and battered the prince's image overseas.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Congress is looking for an "appropriate" response to Khashoggi's murder, but said the US needs to maintain its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Asked by a reporter if it would be a murder conviction, Corker replied "yes".

Democrats provided similar reactions after the briefing, which was given to leaders of Senate committees that focus on national security. Frustrated with the administration's response, senators voted last week to move forward on a resolution curtailing US backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

"They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran", Trump said in the statement.

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