US senators slam Saudi prince


Two key US Republican senators said a closed-door briefing by CIA director Gina Haspel strengthened their conviction that Saudi Arabia's crown prince directed the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The declarations by members of President Donald Trump's party ran counter to a White House narrative that plays down possible links between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the October killing of Saudi journalist and palace critic Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate.

"I have zero questions in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said after Haspel briefed a small group of senators.

"If MBS were in front of a jury, he'd be convicted in less than 30 minutes," Corker added, using the prince's initials.

Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has joined a growing collection of lawmakers urging the president to take a tougher stance against Riyadh, also attended the hour-long closed-door briefing and did not mince words after it.

The prince is "crazy" and "a wrecking ball," who is "complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to the highest level possible," Graham said. "There's not a smoking gun but a smoking saw." That was a reference to the death squad dismembering Khashoggi's body.

The South Carolina senator was also repudiating comments by top Trump administration officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said last week there was "no smoking gun" to implicate the prince.

The CIA is said to have evidence the prince exchanged 11 messages with close aide Saud al-Qahtani, who oversaw the murder.

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