After a closed-door briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday, top US senators said they have “zero doubt” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered or at least knew about the operation to kill Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.
“The views that I had before have only solidified,” said Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has called for a strong US reaction to Khashoggi’s death and backs legislation to end all US support for the Saudi coalition waging war in Yemen.
Republican Senator Linsey Graham told reporters, “You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS.”
He added that it appeared that the Trump administration does not want to recognise evidence of the crown prince’s complicity.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoed the comments, saying he has zero doubt in his mind that Prince Mohammed ordered and monitored the killing of Khashoggi.
The comments come after Haspel briefed top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Appropriations and Intelligence committees. Other senators were also present.
Senators expressed outrage last week after the CIA director did not attend a briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Trump administration denied allegations it had blocked Haspel from appearing.
At last week’s briefing, Pompeo and Mattis said there was no hard evidence the crown prince was behind the killing and urged senators not to downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia over the incident. The CIA has reportedly assessed, however, that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing of Khashoggi.
Hours after last week’s briefing the Senate voted 63-37 to take up a resolution aimed at limiting US involvement in the war in Yemen, where a Washington-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched an intervention in 2015 through a massive air campaign targeting Houthi rebels. The next vote on the bill could come as early as Thursday.
Khashoggi was killed on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his planned marriage.
After offering contradictory statements, Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate and his body was dismembered. The kingdom has repeatedly said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey said was ordered at the highest level of Saudi leadership.
Al Jazeera and news agencies