Top US senators briefed by Central Intelligence Agency blame MBS for Khashoggi's killing

REUTERS  Danny Moloshok

REUTERS Danny Moloshok

Senate leaders finally got their desired meeting with CIA Director Gina Haspel to see the evidence that led the intelligence organization to conclude that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to The Washington Post.

Bin Salman has denied any knowledge of the plot to torture, murder and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in October and the USA has waffled on whether it believes his denials. Turkey says a hit squad from Riyadh killed and dismembered him.

Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has joined a growing collection of lawmakers urging the president to take a far tougher stance against Riyadh over the killing, also attended the hour-long closed-door briefing, and minced no words afterwards.

"I think he is insane, I think he is unsafe and he has put the relationship (between United States and Saudi Arabia) at risk there is not a smoking gun, there is a smoking saw". The Senate overwhelmingly voted last week to move forward on a resolution curtailing USA backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Both officials took the position that there was not enough evidence to tie the killing to the crown prince.

Corker also suggested that the briefing last week, which featured Pompeo and Mattis but not Haspel, was entirely misleading.

They said the "whole world is certain that he ordered a bad crime against the journalist Jamal Khashoggi". "I would imagine if they were in a Democratic administration, I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, but since I have such respect for them, I'm going to assume that they're being good soldiers".

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Haspel left the briefing and did not respond to CNN's questions about whether the briefing would satisfy senators' concerns.

After the briefing with Haspel, South Carolina Republican Sen.

Trump has said it's unknowable whether the Crown Prince was actually behind it - despite the Central Intelligence Agency concluding this with "high confidence" - while Pompeo said last week that there was no "direct reporting" implicating him.

Lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee used a nomination hearing on Tuesday that included Christopher Henzel, a career diplomat tapped to be next ambassador to Yemen, to vent their frustrations about the Trump administration over its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Sen. "Saudi Arabia makes billions and billions of dollars off of oil".

"We are a coequal branch of government exercising leadership to safeguard the country's long-term interests, values and reputation", wrote Graham, a frequent ally of the president. And for once, Graham and Democrats in Congress have found something they can agree on. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, shook his head no.

Even if the Yemen resolution passes the Senate, it appears unlikely to advance in the House. Saudi officials continue to deny the prince's involvement, blaming rogue operators. The House hasn't moved on the issue, and Speaker Paul Ryan last week said the Yemen resolution "isn't the way to go".

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