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CIA director briefs senators on Khashoggi killing

US senators concluded that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi after a classified briefing by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Gina Haspel.

A bipartisan group of senators were eager to hear directly from the CIA about what officials have described as the Agency’s conclusion that the Saudi Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing. The CIA is also believed to have evidence that the Crown Prince communicated repeatedly with an aide who commanded the team that assassinated Khashoggi, around the time of the journalist’s death on October 2nd.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the Judiciary Committee, said Mohammed Bin Salman “is a wrecking ball,” adding “I think he’s complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible.” Graham added that he can no longer support arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the minority leader, said the briefing “reinforced the need for a strong response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi” but also called on CIA Director Haspel to testify to the full Senate. Yesterday’s briefing was limited to eight Senators.

Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) said “all evidence points to that, that all this leads back to the crown prince. This is conduct that none of us in America would approve of in any way.” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, (R-TN), said “I have zero question in my mind that the Crown Prince ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening. Planned it in advance. If he was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty.”

The briefing put top Republican senators at odds with the White House, which has refused to blame Saudi Arabia’s leadership for the Khashoggi’s death. President Donald Trump has maintained support for Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince. Last month Trump said it was possible that the Crown Prince “had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” In a statement on 20 November, Trump said “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”