After being briefed by the CIA on the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, senators of both parties came out swinging in their condemnation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
CIA Director Gina Haspel shared her findings with the US Senate Tuesday afternoon.
"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," Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at a press conference. "There is zero chance that this happened in such fashion without the crown prince."
Bob Corker (R-TX) followed suit, telling reporters he has "zero question" that the crown prince "ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening and planned it in advance."
Bin Salman would be "convicted in 30 minutes" if he were in front of a jury, said Corker.
'You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people un… https://t.co/P7yRhfX6Td— Reuters (@Reuters)1543950120.0
Graham said although there is no "smoking gun," there is a "smoking saw," referring to the tool used to mutilate Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in October.
Bin Salman is a "wrecking ball," Graham adding that the crown prince was "complicit in the murder" of Khashoggi to the "highest level possible."
"Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving," Graham told ABC, "but not at all costs."
Lindsey Graham: Saudi Arabia's crown prince is a "wrecking ball" who's "complicit in the murder" of Jamal Khashoggi… https://t.co/q7PAwgTlDH— Kyle Griffin (@Kyle Griffin)1543947656.0
Democrats on the Hill urged action.
“The views that I had before have only solidified,” said Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He joined his party in demanding an "up or down vote" on a resolution that would end US military aid to Saudi Arabia in Yemen, which has been torn apart by civil war.
Following the meeting with Haspel, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) emerged unwilling to risk souring US-Saudi relations, despite the evidence presented to him.
“Somebody should be punished,” he said. “Now the question is how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation itself?”
President Donald Trump has been reluctant to accept Saudi Arabia's culpability in Khashoggi's death, emphasizing the importance of the economic relationship — including a non-existent $450 billion arms deal — between the Saudi monarchy and the United States.
Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turki… https://t.co/d26Etc37Q1— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1539715218.0
Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you… https://t.co/gbyx8NXe1f— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1542804591.0
Trump sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals connected with the crime but has not levied any consequences on the crown prince himself.
Twitter wants to know when Republicans are going to hold Trump accountable for his part in the coverup.
@kylegriffin1 @SethAbramson @LindseyGrahamSC I believe you forgot to mention @realDonaldTrump is complicit in cover… https://t.co/5BAOho9tNX— Jay Steinbrecher (@Jay Steinbrecher)1543949721.0
@kylegriffin1 @LindseyGrahamSC You could easily replace Trump with MBS and your statement would still be accurate b… https://t.co/bk2xVFEmsq— Ken (@Ken)1543949152.0
@kylegriffin1 @SethAbramson Ah Graham disputes the bosses "Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't" idea.— keith johnson (@keith johnson)1543951425.0
@kylegriffin1 What are you gonna do about it? Nothing I suspect— caroline wildfeuer (@caroline wildfeuer)1543950600.0
@kylegriffin1 @SethAbramson Big words, no action.— Diana D. (@Diana D.)1543949725.0
@Reuters So your Golf buddy is willfully blind and you will do nothing....Pssst. We have a major recession coming a… https://t.co/6kXjumxpz6— Jeff shufelt (@Jeff shufelt)1543951269.0
@Reuters Still has not made diagnosis of 45.— Peter Simon (@Peter Simon)1543950776.0
@kylegriffin1 @SethAbramson This is why I say over and over again that it is vital that we eliminate our reliance o… https://t.co/na02Qragz4— #DemSoc in the Deep South 🌹 (@#DemSoc in the Deep South 🌹)1543950166.0
Last week, meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis denied bin Salman's involvement in the murder of Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States.
"There is no direct evidence" connecting the crown prince to the killing, Pompeo said at a press briefing. “I was asked to be here, and I’m here,” Pompeo snapped.
@Reuters @LindseyGrahamSC why did @SecPompeo deny that #MBS knew anything about the #Khashoggi assassination? https://t.co/cUSvdK22Ln— James Smith (@James Smith)1543955600.0
These remarks came after Pompeo and Mattis announced that the White House had instructed Haspel not to brief the Senate.
Democrats in Congress's upper chamber were not happy.
“We were told during this briefing that it was the direction of the White House that she not attend,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) at the time. “I cannot recall a briefing on such a sensitive nature where we have been denied access to the intelligence agencies of the United States.”
Durbin said he and his colleagues "asked why Gina Haspel wasn’t there, and the two who were there said that was the decision of the White House."
Later that day, CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barret released a statement denying the agency had been asked by the White House to stand down.
“While Director Haspel did not attend today’s Yemen policy briefing, the agency has already briefed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and congressional leadership on the totality of the compartmented, classified intelligence and will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and Congress. The notion that anyone told Director Haspel not to attend today's briefing is false.”
Also last week, National Security Advisor John Bolton refused to hear audio recordings of Khashoggi being killed — because he does not speak Arabic.
On Monday, Bolton told Wall Street Journal Editor at Large Gerard Baker that reports of bin Salman's involvement in Khashoggi's murder were "erroneous."
Bolton said he, Pompeo and Mattis "didn't see anything" in the intelligence reports to "justify that conclusion."