Two key U.S. Republican senators said Tuesday after a briefing by the CIA's director that they have "zero" doubt Saudi Arabia's crown prince directed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In contrast to statements from President Donald Trump-who has said "we may never know" if the crown prince was culpable-several senators came out of the briefing saying they were more convinced than ever.
Mr Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote for the Washington Post, had been a fierce critic of the crown prince before his death. Turkey says a hit squad from Riyadh killed and dismembered him.
Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has joined a growing collection of lawmakers urging the president to take a far tougher stance against Riyadh, also attended the hour-long closed-door briefing, and minced no words afterwards.
Graham had said that "there's a smoking saw" implicating MBS, adding that anyone who would deny his involvement at this point is "willfully blind".
CIA Director Gina Haspel is headed to Capitol Hill to brief Senate leaders on the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. They are also supporting legislation to end US support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, which the Trump administration opposes. "It is zero chance - zero - that this happened without the crown prince".
Questioned about Haspel's absence from last week's briefing, a Central Intelligence Agency spokesman said that the director had already briefed congressional leaders on Khashoggi and that no one was keeping her away.
"No response is certainly not appropriate", McConnell said at a Wall Street Journal event.
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"I left the briefing with high confidence that my initial confidence is correct", said Sen.
Some senators had accused the White House of barring Haspel's participation in last week's briefing with Pompeo and Mattis.
"If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a awful mistake", Trump said on November 20, when he released a lengthy statement.
Last week, the administration sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis to brief the Senate, but Graham and other senators expressed outrage that they were not hearing directly from Haspel, as the CIA's assessment had been liberally leaked to the media.
Haspel provided the closed briefing just days before the Senate is expected to begin debating a resolution to withdraw USA support for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen.
The South Carolina senator continued, "Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, and the relationship is worth saving-but not at all cost". He said he would "question somebody's judgment if they couldn't figure this out". Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, shook his head no.
The Yemen legislation, which may face another procedural vote this week, could set up a bitter year-end Senate floor fight over U.S. war powers. "Now the question is how do you separate the Saudi Crown Prince and his group from the nation itself?" The House hasn't moved on the issue, and Speaker Paul Ryan last week said the Yemen resolution "isn't the way to go".
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He has instead spent considerable time with his family and worked to position himself for a post-conviction career. In September, the special counsel's office officially scheduled December 18 for Flynn's sentencing.