After CIA briefing, GOP senators castigate Trump administration for covering up Khashoggi's murder
Both Democratic and Republican senators emerged Tuesday from a classified briefing with CIA director Gina Haspel about the Jamal Khashoggi murder issuing stinging rebukes of the White House’s course of action on Saudi Arabia.
The Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said there’s no question that if Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stood trial, he would be put behind bars for the Saudi journalist’s assassination in Turkey in October.
“If he was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes: guilty,” Corker told reporters resolutely after hearing the full CIA estimate of Khashoggi’s gruesome killing. Corker also said he was completely convinced the Crown Prince both “ordered the killing” and “monitored the killing.” (Note: that may be the first mention of MBS monitoring the killing.)
Usual Trump booster Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was no less sparing in his assessment of the briefing. “There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” Graham asserted, adding that the U.S. should come down on Prince Mohammed like a “ton of bricks.”
CIA officials, including Haspel, had been blocked by the White House from last week’s Senate briefing on Saudi-U.S. relations, leaving the job to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Following that briefing, both administration officials covered for Trump’s refusal to hold the Crown Prince accountable for Khashoggi’s murder.
Senators were incensed that the CIA, which had concluded the Crown Prince was responsible for the killing, had been kept out of the briefing. Their reaction to the information provided this week by Haspel is a shameful comment on the efforts of both Pompeo and Mattis to do Trump’s bidding on the issue. Trump has repeatedly said he believes the U.S.-Saudi alliance is too valuable to sacrifice, nearly always quoting bogus information to buttress his assertion.
After the briefing, Graham disagreed.
“Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs,” he said, adding that he can no longer support doing business with Saudi Arabia if the “crazy” crown prince continues to run the country.
On Mattis and Pompeo, in particular, Graham charged, “If they were in a Democratic administration, I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia.” Yep.
Check out video of the senators’ reactions below.