Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

GOP lawmaker defends Trump's Khashoggi response: 'Journalists disappear all over the country'

U.S. senators more certain than ever Saudi crown prince was behind Khashoggi killing GOP lawmaker defends Trump's Khashoggi response: 'Journalists disappear all over the country'
Gerardo Duncan | 05 December, 2018, 03:29

Two key US Republican senators said Tuesday (Dec 4) after a briefing by the CIA's director they have "zero" doubt Saudi Arabia's crown prince directed the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In his bid to pressure the Trump administration to condemn the Crown Prince, Senator Graham said there may not be a "smoking gun", but that there was a "smoking saw", a reference to a bone saw that investigators said was used to cut up Khashoggi's body. "There's a smoking saw".

Graham added that his opinion on Saudi Arabia had changed and that he would no longer support the war in Yemen or arms sales between the USA and the kingdom until the issue was addressed.

The sharp response from prominent Senate Republicans will increase the pressure on President Trump, who has defended the crown prince and the US relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi was killed - and then dismembered by a bone saw - in October at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul by a hit squad sent by bin Salman, the Central Intelligence Agency concluded.

Tuesday's briefing comes as the Senate weighs punishing the longtime Middle East ally over the killing.

Graham voted for a resolution last week that would cancel US support for Saudi Arabia's involvement in the civil war in Yemen. "I think he is complicit in the murder of Khashoggi in the highest possible level", said Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

Other senators emerging from a briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel also blame the Saudi de facto ruler for the murder despite Trump's unwavering support for the prince in the wake of his arms deal with Riyadh.

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.'

Khashoggi was killed October 2 in what US officials have described as an elaborate plot at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, which he had visited for marriage paperwork.

The Trump administration has said that there is no "direct evidence" of the prince's culpability, with the defence secretary James Mattis, insisting there was no "smoking gun".

Senators are "trying to figure out an amendment that a larger group of people could get behind that addresses this issue without undermining our national interests", Corker said. The CIA has concluded that the crown prince personally ordered Khashoggi's killing, according to a senior United States official and a source familiar with the matter.

Ms Haspel's absence from that briefing angered senators.

While Senate passage of a resolution would send a strong message to Saudi Arabia, it's unlikely it would become law before the end of the year.

"All evidence points to that all this leads back to the crown prince", said, Alaska Republican Senator Richard Shelby, calling the murder a "reprehensible conduct".

He said he was working with colleagues on how to amend the resolution, and he had not had suggestions from the Trump administration on how it might prefer to proceed.

Senate responds to Trump's support of Saudi Arabia with a bill that would pull US support from Saudi-led forces fighting in Yemen; Lt. Col.

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