Graham Breaks With Trump: 'Zero Chance' MBS Wasn't Involved In Khashoggi Murder

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After CIA director Gina Haspel briefed a handful of senators on Tuesday about US intelligence related to the murder of dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, lawmakers said they were even more confident that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in the brutal assassination.

Graham was also asked about Pompeo's comments and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis' comments that there was no "smoking gun". Pompeo said there was "no direct reporting" connecting the crown prince to the murder, and Mattis said there was "no smoking gun" making the connection.

Senator Graham is also introducing a separate resolution to officially blame the Saudi crown prince for Khashoggi's death. Still, that didn't stop Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) from defending President Donald Trump's apparent unwillingness to hold Mohammed responsible.

The Saudi position has been that the 15 assassins who traveled to Istanbul on October 2 and murdered Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate were rogue operatives acting without the knowledge of the crown prince or the king.

CIA Director Gina Haspel is headed to Capitol Hill to brief Senate leaders on the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Tuesday's briefing comes as the Senate weighs punishing the longtime Middle East ally over the killing. The Trump administration has issued sanctions against the individuals who carried out the crime, but Trump himself issued a strong, yet befuddling, statement of support for the kingdom, citing economic benefits for the U.S. In that statement, Trump vacillated on bin Salman's involvement: "maybe he did, maybe he didn't" know about the murder scheme.

Graham voted for a resolution last week that would cancel USA support for Saudi Arabia's involvement in the civil war in Yemen.

"I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening", Sen.

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.'

The Kentucky lawmaker was excluded from a group on Tuesday that met with CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Khashoggi, a USA resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October in what US officials have described as an elaborate plot.

Trump has repeatedly cast doubts over the United States intelligence agency's assessment, however, while Saudi officials have repeatedly denied that the crown prince had any knowledge of Khashoggi's murder or its subsequent cover-up.

USA intelligence officials reportedly have concluded that the crown prince, known informally as "MBS", must have at least known of the plot. "And at the same time what is protecting US interests, what is going to counter Shia extremists; what will help bring stability; what will help bring an end to the war in Yemen.

And yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals or with these countries".

The Senate could take a vote on proceeding to the Yemen resolution next week.

The case has highlighted growing tensions between the Trump administration and the Central Intelligence Agency, which concluded last month that MBS ordered Khashoggi's murder.

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