Leading US senators say they have no doubt that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was culpable in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after receiving a damning CIA briefing.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate’s foreign relations committee (FRC), said Wednesday morning (Australian time) he believes if the Crown Prince were put on trial, a jury would find him guilty in “about 30 minutes”.
Fellow republican Lindsey Graham, who demanded the briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel, said there is “zero chance” the Crown Prince was not involved in Mr Khashoggi’s death.
“There’s not a smoking gun. There’s a smoking saw,” Mr Graham said, referring to reports from the Turkish government that said Saudi agents used a bone saw to dismember Mr Khashoggi after he was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“You have to be wilfully blind” not to conclude that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the Crown Prince’s command, he added.
Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on FRC, who backs legislation to end all US support for the Saudi coalition waging war in Yemen, said his views on Mr Khashoggi’s death “have only solidified” after the briefing.
Mr Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
Mr Trump has evaded laying blame for the killing, frustrating senators who are now looking for ways to punish America’s longtime Middle Eastern ally.
The Senate overwhelmingly voted last week to move forward on a resolution curtailing US backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The vote last week allowed the Senate to debate the measure, which could happen as soon as next week, but senators are still in negotiations on whether to amend it and what it should say.
Ms Haspel met with a small group of senators Wednesday morning, including leadership and the chairmen and top Democrats on the key national security committees, after complaints that she didn’t attend an all-Senate briefing last week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.