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 under the command of MbS,' Senator Lindsey Graham said about Khashoggi death https://t.co/FtXkm2xLOG pic.twitter.com/ZhQK57RJ4z
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) December 4, 2018
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 to the "highest level possible."
"Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs." Via ABC. pic.twitter.com/0gnWIA2ka3
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 4, 2018
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 Turkish Consulate. He was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018
Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018
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.
— Jay Steinbrecher (@JaySteinbrecher) December 4, 2018
@LindseyGrahamSC You could easily replace Trump with MBS and your statement would still be accurate but go ahead and grandstand for the cameras
— Ken (@ThunderGawdKen) December 4, 2018
Ah Graham disputes the bosses "Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't" idea.
— keith johnson (@keith_johnson) December 4, 2018
What are you gonna do about it? Nothing I suspect
— caroline wildfeuer (@cswildfeuer) December 4, 2018
Big words, no action.
— Diana D. (@ddowwow) December 4, 2018
So your Golf buddy is willfully blind and you will do nothing….Pssst. We have a major recession coming at us with a willfully economic ignorance as POTUS….Who on the GOP is going to stop the madness before its 2008 again with everyones 401k destroyed
— Jeff shufelt (@jeff_shufelt) December 4, 2018
Still has not made diagnosis of 45.
— Peter Simon (@psimon846) December 4, 2018
This is why I say over and over again that it is vital that we eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels, especially from the Middle East. It is in the interest of our own security! Dump the autocrats, refuse to allow them to engage with the world community and spread democracy.
— #DemSoc in the Deep South 🌹 (@ImNotaDemocrat1) December 4, 2018
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.
— James Smith (@InWhoseOpinion) December 4, 2018
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.”
Why did the Secretary of State and Dept of Defense both LIE about MBS involvement? Why are they covering up for MBS?
Who are Pompeo & Mattis loyal to? Trump or Country?
— Cathy Kaku 🍓 (@cathykaku1) December 4, 2018
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.”