Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and others want an all-senators briefing about any potential role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Don’t think Congress is going to look away if he’s (bin Salman) making the world a more dangerous place. We are not going to give an autocratic leader a pass,” Graham told CNN.
Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN last week that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo need to brief the full Senate about the situation in Yemen and the circumstances behind Khashoggi’s killing before senators decide what actions to take against Saudi Arabia.
The hope is to have the briefing Wednesday, CNN has been told. After they hear for themselves, they will decide what action to take in the Senate.
“We don’t want to give a green light to others that they can go down this road,” Graham told CNN.
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that she is open to congressional action.
“I do think we need to look into this further, and we need to understand where the investigations are leading us,” Ernst said. “If there are indicators that the prince was involved in this murder, then we need to absolutely consider further action.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, made a similar point.
“It is a grave mistake for the President to ignore the CIA’s widely reported assessment on the Khashoggi murder. If the President does not reconsider what actions our government should take toward the Saudi Government & MbS, Congress must act instead,” she tweeted on Sunday.
Last week, top Republicans slammed President Donald Trump for his statement backing Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was an outspoken critic of the Saudi Arabian government.
The official statement by the White House reads, “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
A senior US official and a source familiar with the matter told CNN that the CIA concluded last week that the crown prince personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing. According to The Washington Post, which first reported on the CIA’s assessment, US officials have high confidence in the report. The Saudi government has steadfastly denied the ruler was involved.
In the statement, the President wrote, “we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” in adding, “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran.”
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the presumptive incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he has been briefed by the CIA about the killing and believes Trump is “being dishonest with the American people.”
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.