'Zero' doubt Saudi crown prince directed Khashoggi murder: GOP senators

U.S. senators more certain than ever Saudi crown prince was behind Khashoggi killing

Leading US senators say they are more certain than ever that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was culpable in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after receiving a Central Intelligence Agency briefing on the matter.

There was "zero question" that the young prince was behind the assassination, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee.

"I went in believing the crown prince was directly responsible or at least complicit in this and my feelings were strengthened by the information we were given", Durbin said.

After Tuesday's Haspel briefing, Republican senator Lindsey Graham said: "There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw".

"MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball [and] I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to the highest level possible".

He argued that Pompeo and Mattis needed to be asked specifically if they disagreed with the CIA's conclusion there was "no smoking gun" to link the crown prince to the murder, as Mattis has claimed.

The veteran journalist was a strong critic of Prince Mohammed and had been resident in the United States, where he wrote about politics in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East for The Washington Post.

Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'
Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'

While acknowledging the country's long relationship with Saudi Arabia, senators have said the murder can't be excused. Graham was expected to attend Tuesday's meeting, along with the top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and intelligence panels and a few others.

Many Democrats want a "straight up or down vote" on the resolution to end all USA support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen, without amendments.

"If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a bad mistake", Trump said on November 20, when he released a lengthy statement.

"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", Trump said at the time. Legislators have vowed to punish Saudi Arabia, proposing a measure which would remove USA support for the Saudis in the civil war in Yemen. "It is zero chance - zero - that this happened without the crown prince".

Many senators cited a cancelled briefing by Haspel on the Khashoggi matter as rationale for their vote. He said it seemed as though the White House's response to the Khashoggi killing was that "you can kill a journalist". He has consistently reminded the press that the crown prince told him he had nothing to do with Khashoggi's disappearance.

In an interview with CNN last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they had no direct evidence to prove Prince Mohammed was behind the murder. "Of course it does, and yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals- or with these countries".

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