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‘A Smoking Saw’: US Senators Leave CIA Briefing Convinced MBS Killed Khashoggi

© AP Photo / Jacquelyn MartinPeople hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington.
People hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington. - Sputnik International
Following a briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel Tuesday, leading US senators emerged with the strong conviction that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October.

"I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening," Sen. Bob Corker told ABC after the briefing. "Planned it in advance. If he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty."

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"There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham after the meeting, referring to the grisly conclusion that the journalist's body had been cut up with a bone saw after his death. "It is zero chance — zero — that this happened without the crown prince… you have to be willfully blind" to believe he wasn't involved, Graham said. The senator had previously said he would refuse to take a position on the question before hearing Haspel's testimony on the spy agency's findings, which differ from the positions voiced by the Trump administration.

Other senators, including Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) said the briefing confirmed their suspicions about bin Salman's involvement and agreed the US must respond. Graham has also pushed for the Magnitsky Act sanctions issued against the 15 assassins to be extended to the crown prince as well.

​Haspel's testimony has been regarded as key by senators sitting on the fence about condemning the Saudi leader, since it was she who traveled to Ankara to hear the recording by Turkish intelligence of Khashoggi's last moments. She was notably absent from last week's Senate briefing, an omission seen by many lawmakers as an attempt by the Trump administration to deprive them of the spy agency's narrative of the events as they weighed opening debate on a resolution to end US support for the Saudi coalition's war in Yemen. The Senate ultimately passed that measure by a very wide margin, and debate on the resolution itself is expected to begin soon.

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The CIA's findings were leaked in mid-November, indicating the spy agency had enough evidence to conclude that "there is no way this happened without [Mohammed bin Salman] being aware or involved," according to the source who leaked the conclusions to the Washington Post.

By contrast, US President Donald Trump's position, as summarized in his statement the following Tuesday, has been to take the crown prince at his word.

"It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn't! We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi," Trump said on November 20, indicating he'd spoken with the crown prince and his father, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, both of whom denied the accusations.

The Saudi position has been that the 15 assassins who traveled to Istanbul on October 2 and murdered Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate were rogue operatives acting without the knowledge of the crown prince or the king. The Saudi public prosecutor has indicted and charged dozens of Saudi citizens, including several top advisers to the crown prince, in the affair.

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