CIA Director to Brief Lawmakers on Saudi Journalist's Murder

Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama Bahrain Feb. 1 2015

Leading US senators say they are more certain than ever Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after they received a Central Intelligence Agency briefing on the matter.

The explosive new declarations by members of President Donald Trump's own party run counter to the White House narrative downplaying possible links between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the October killing of journalist and palace critic Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said he believes if the crown prince were put on trial, a jury would find him guilty in "about 30 minutes".

After yesterday's briefing from Gina Haspel, the Central Intelligence Agency director, Lindsey Graham, a Republican ally of Mr Trump, said: "There's not a smoking gun".

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said there is "zero chance" the crown prince wasn't involved in Khashoggi's death.

"There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw", Graham said.

Prince Mohammed, who has been making his first foreign tour since the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, held talks instead with Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, Algeria's presidency said.

Graham said there was no doubt in his mind after Haspel's briefing. "As to Pompeo and Mattis, I have great respect for them".

The two men echoed Trump's reluctance to blame the crown prince.

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"I would really question someone's judgment if they couldn't figure this out", Graham continued.

"If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a bad mistake", Trump said on November 20, when he released a lengthy statement.

A Senate source said Senate leaders would also participate in the briefing, which is scheduled for 11.30am ET.

USA intelligence officials have concluded that the crown prince must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has been reluctant to pin the blame.

Graham also said that he would not support the current USA military efforts to support Saudi Arabia in its war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Haspel would conduct a briefing.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Republican Senator Rand Paul voiced his frustration that "most rank-and-file senators and congressmen" were not invited to the meeting with Haspel.

The Yemen legislation could set up a bitter year-end Senate floor fight over US war powers. "I think temperatures are up by all involved ... so figuring out something that can pass overwhelmingly still is going to be hard because some people want to tie the Yemen piece into the Khashoggi piece".

While Senate passage of a resolution would send a strong message to Saudi Arabia, it's unlikely it would become law before the end of the year.

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