Three Republican senators criticized Saudi Arabia’s withering explanations for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and have called on the Trump administration to take significant action against the kingdom should the Saudi crown prince be found responsible.
Saudi Arabia had initially denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance but claimed via state media last week that Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist had been strangled in a fistfight with 15 men sent to confront him at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The kingdom blamed some of the crown prince’s inner circle for the murder, and several high-ranking officials were dismissed if not detained outright.
The first legislator, outgoing Senator Bob Corker (TN) said Saudi Arabia’s story “is just not credible” and expressed his belief that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was personally involved in the killing.
“Obviously, if [MBS] has gone forth and murdered this journalist, he’s now crossed the line, and there has to be a punishment and a price paid for that,” Corker said. “Do I think he did it? Yeah. I think he did it.”
.@SenBobCorker on the Crown Prince: "Obviously if he's gone forth and murdered this journalist, he's now crossed the line, and there has to be a punishment and a price to pay for that… Do I think he did it? Yeah. I think he did it." #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/aHbGTv98nI
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) October 21, 2018
Senator Rand Paul (KY) also weighed in, calling Saudi Arabia’s explanations “insulting.” He suggested that President Donald Trump should follow the lead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and cease arms sales to the country. (Germany has
“I think it stretches credulity to believe that the crown prince wasn’t involved in this,” Paul told “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no way 15 people were sent from Saudi Arabia to Turkey to kill a dissident without the approval of the crown prince.”
“That’s why I say we have to be stronger than just saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to sanction a few of these people and pretend like we’re doing something.’ I think we really need to discontinue our arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have a long and serious discussion about whether they want to be an ally or they want to be an enemy,” he added.
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) October 21, 2018
Senator Ben Sasse (NE) echoed Senator Paul’s suggestion.
“We don’t do arms sales for the purpose of the profits from arms sales ― we do arm sales because we want to be aligned with different countries around the globe that believe in our values,” Sasse told CNN. “I think the cover stories from the Saudis are a mess. You don’t bring a bone saw to an accidental fistfight. … The Saudis have said a whole bunch of crap that’s not right, accurate or true.”
"You don't bring a bone saw to an accidental fist fight," says GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of the Saudis' explanation for journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death. "The Saudis have said a whole bunch of crap that's not right, accurate, or true" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/kplFCzD1nU
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 21, 2018
Last week, sources familiar with Khashoggi’s case told CNN that Khashoggi’s murder “was organized by a high-ranking officer with the General Intelligence Presidency, Saudi Arabia’s main intelligence service.”
The report continues:
One of those sources described the officer as close to the inner circle of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is unclear whether the crown prince authorized an interrogation, abduction or killing. Several officials CNN spoke with said the mission could not have happened without the direct knowledge of the 33-year-old crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, who is known by his initials “MBS.”
A second source said the officer assembled and sent his own team to interrogate Khashoggi. They suspected Khashoggi of having ties to the kingdom’s arch rival, Qatar, the source said. There has been no evidence to substantiate Khashoggi had such ties.
Another source told CNN the mission’s organizer was not transparent about what he told Riyadh, which, the source said, explained why the government had no clear information for days.
A Turkish official told the network that Khashoggi’s body was cut into pieces after he was killed two weeks ago.
President Donald Trump’s response, meanwhile, has been largely ineffectual.