A day after leading members of the Senate claimed Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the journalist’s killing after they were briefed by the head of the CIA, a group of senators from both parties introduced a measure that would hold the 33-year prince accountable.
The resolution – introduced by a group that included Republicans Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, and Democrat Dianne Feinstein - says the Senate believes the crown prince “was in control of security forces” during the killing and “based on evidence and analysis made available to this institution, has a high level of confidence that Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi”.
“I believe it’s vitally important to US national security interests to make a definitive statement about the brutal murder of an American resident – Mr Khashoggi – who has three American citizen children,” Mr Graham said in a statement accompanying Wednesday’s resolution.
The resolution, which also calls for a peace deal to end Saudi’s military bombing operation, is non-binding. However, if is passed it would underscore the difference between many members of the US foreign policy establishment and Donald Trump. It would also force Mr Trump to decide whether or not to veto the measure.
Mr Trump has repeatedly sought to defend the crown prince, denying reports that the CIA had concluded he was behind October’s killing of the 59-year-old journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Last month, the president issued a statement saying the US would remain a steadfast ally of Saudi Arabia, even though the prince “may or may not” have been behind the killing that triggered global outrage.
“I’m not going to tell a country....that has helped me keep oil prices down...I’m not going to destroy our economy by being foolish with Saudi Arabia,” Mr Trump.
After emerging from a private briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Mr Graham of South Carolina, said a person would have to be “willfully blind not to come to the conclusion this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of Mohammed bin Salman”.
The Hill said the Senate is bracing for a chaotic floor fight over the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen and Mr Khashoggi’s murder.
Senators voted to kick a resolution to the full Senate last week that would require Mr Trump to withdraw troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting Al-Qaeda.
The resolution also calls on the Saudi government to negotiate with representatives of the Houthi movement and agree to a political resolution and end the country’s humanitarian crisis. The bombing campaign – supported by a number of Gulf nations as well as the US and UK – has resulted in a massive humanitarian catastrophe.
Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the foreign relations committee, and who supports ending US support for Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen, said his views had only solidified after attending the briefing on Capitol Hill.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the committee, shook his head to say “no”, when asked if he thought Ms Haspel’s briefing had changed any minds.
“I have zero question in my mind that the Crown Prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening,” said Mr Corker. “Planned it in advanced. If he was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty.”
Saudi Arabia has denied the crown prince’s involvement. Last month, the nation’s public prosecutor charged 11 people over the murder, and seeking the death penalty for five of them. The Saudi public prosecutor has blamed a “rogue” operation aimed at bringing Mr Khashoggi back to the Riyadh for the killing. Investigations are continuing into another 10.
The US Treasury Department has sanctioned 17 Saudi’s who it says “targeted” Mr Khashoggi.
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