US senators say 'smoking saw' points to Mohammed bin Salman in Jamal Khashoggi killing

Nick Allen

Several senior Republican senators have broken with Donald Trump over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, declaring that a "smoking saw" in  the case pointed to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman being responsible.

Their verdict came after a private briefing on the evidence from Gina Haspel, the CIA director, and increased the prospect of financial consequences for the kingdom, like cutting off US military aid for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Mr Graham added: "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. I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I cannot support arm sales to Saudi Arabia as long as he's in charge of this country."

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied complicity in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi Credit: AFP

Mr Graham added: "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. I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I cannot support arm sales to Saudi Arabia as long as he's in charge of this country."

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, pictured in September 2018. Credit: Reuters

The senator added that the crown prince was a "wrecking ball" and the US should come down on the kingdom like a "ton of bricks".

Senator Lindsey Graham after the CIA briefing Credit: Reuters

Following the CIA chief's briefing Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: "I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder, and was kept appraised of the situation all the way through it.

Senator Bob Corker after being briefed by the CIA Credit: Reuters

"If the crown prince went in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes."

Asked if he meant convicted of a murder charge, Mr Corker said "yes."

Mr Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post, had been a fierce critic of the crown prince before his death.

The CIA director briefed a small group of senators as they consider punishing America's Middle East ally.

CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed senators Credit: AP

Last week they voted to move ahead with a resolution that could cut US assistance for the military campaign in Yemen.

The senators' position contradicted that of Mr Trump who has been more neutral, equivocating over who was responsible for Mr Khashoggi's death.

In a statement two weeks ago the US president said: "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!

"That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi."

Saudi Arabia has denied the crown prince was involved and blames Ahmed al-Asiri, the former deputy intelligence chief.

Last month the US sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals, but not the crown prince.