‘Zero question’ MBS directed Khashoggi murder, US senators say

After meeting with CIA director, Republican senators say Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is ‘complicit’ in journalist’s murder

‘I think he’s crazy. I think he is dangerous,’ US Senator Lindsey Graham said about the crown prince (AFP)

MEE and agencies

Tuesday 4 December 2018 17:59 UTC

Two US Republican senators have emerged from a meeting with CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday saying it’s clearer than ever that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi could not have happened without the knowledge of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

US Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday that bin Salman, known as MBS, is “complicit” in the killing of Khashoggi.

“MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he’s complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, to the highest level possible,” Graham told reporters after he came out of the meeting with Haspel.

“I think the behaviour before the Khashoggi murder was beyond disturbing and I cannot see him being a reliable partner to the United States.”

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Haspel delivered a closed-door briefing to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Appropriations committees on the murder of Khashoggi on Tuesday morning.

While Saudi Arabia and the crown prince “are two different entities”, Graham said the relationship between Washington and Riyadh was imperilled due to MBS’s control of the Saudi government.

“If the Saudi government is going to be in the hands of this man for a long time to come, I find it very difficult to be able to do business because I think he’s crazy. I think he is dangerous, and he has put the relationship at risk.”

‘Zero question’ MBS directed the murder

US Senator Bob Corker, the current head of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also said after the meeting that he is certain that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

“I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and was kept appraised of the situation all the way through it,” Corker said.

A Saudi government critic who was living in self-imposed exile in the US at the time of his death, Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

A 15-man Saudi team was sent to Turkey to kill the Washington Post columnist and his murder took seven minutes, a Turkish source previously told Middle East Eye.

Corker called on US President Donald Trump to strongly condemn Saudi Arabia for the killing and make sure that those responsible are held accountable, Reuters reported.

“If the crown prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” he told reporters. Asked if he would be convicted of murder, the senator then answered: “Yes.”

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“If the crown prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” GOP Sen. @BobCorker says after CIA Director Gina Haspel’s briefing on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
When asked if the crown prince would be convicted of murder, Corker responded: “Yes.”
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Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also briefly spoke to reporters after the meeting.

“The views that I had before have only solidified,” said Menendez, who has called for the US to respond forcefully to Khashoggi’s murder and supports legislation to end US support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The Trump administration has so far pledged to remain a steadfast supporter of the Saudi government, including MBS, the country’s de facto leader, despite the murder of Khashoggi, however.

The case has highlighted growing tensions between the Trump administration and the CIA, which concluded last month that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

Trump has repeatedly cast doubts over the US 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.

MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he’s complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, to the highest level possible
- US Senator Lindsey Graham

A source told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that Trump administration officials, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, will brief all members of the US House of Representatives on the Saudi situation on 13 December.

Haspel is also expected to brief leaders and top committee members of the House within the next two weeks on Khashoggi’s killing, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.

Both Pompeo and Mattis have said in the past week that there is no definitive link — or a “smoking gun” — to tie MBS to Khashoggi’s murder.

However, US lawmakers have repeatedly called for the CIA and the Trump administration to release all the information they have related to the case.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Republican Senator Rand Paul voiced his frustration that “most rank-and-file senators and congressmen” were not invited to the meeting with Haspel.

“It’s wrong for the CIA to have expressed a conclusion that the crown prince was involved in the killing of Khashoggi and then withhold that information,” he told reporters.

“Were there text messages sent back from the killers to the crown prince’s office? Was there a phone conversation between the crown prince and the killers?” said Paul, about what he would have asked the CIA director had he been allowed into the briefing.