Senators emerged from a closed-door briefing with the CIA director Tuesday to say there’s no doubt Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was deeply involved in the killing of journalist Kamal Khashoggi — but still not clear on what steps Congress can take to punish him.
“We know he ordered it. We know he monitored it,” said Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, after hearing from CIA chief Gina Haspel. He said if the case were submitted to a jury trial, “he would be convicted in 30 minutes.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called the evidence they heard overwhelming and rebutted the claims of top Trump administration officials that there was no “smoking gun” tying the crown prince directly to the killing in October.
“There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” Mr. Graham said, referring to the reports that Mr. Khashoggi’s body was dismembered after he was slain in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Mr. Graham said those who deny the crown prince’s involvement — including the president and his team — “have to be willfully blind.”
“It is zero chance — zero — that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince,” Mr. Graham said, calling him “crazy” and “dangerous” and a threat to the Saudi government’s relationship with the U.S.
Ms. Haspel was giving a second briefing to senators, which was a key demand after lawmakers heard last week from Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also a former CIA director.
Mr. Mattis said there was no “smoking gun,” and Mr. Pompeo said there was “no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
President Trump has said he doesn’t want to risk souring the U.S. relationship with the Saudi government over the killing.
Senators disagree — though their next steps remain elusive.
Mr. Graham said he’ll try to push a resolution through the Senate officially blaming the crown prince for the killing.
Other senators are seeking to go further and scuttle the U.S. efforts to assist the Saudi government in a proxy war in Yemen, where Saudi-backed forces are battling Iranian-backed forces.
“Somebody should be punished. Now the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and the nation itself?” said Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.