Graham breaks with Trump, says evidence against Saudi prince in murder is 'a smoking saw'

An emphatic Sen. Lindsey Graham broke from President Trump’s conclusion that “we may never know” whether Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had prior knowledge of the plan to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

“There’s not a smoking gun; there’s a smoking saw,” Graham, R-S.C., told reporters following a closed-door briefing of senators by CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday. Turkish officials believe Khashoggi’s body was cut up with a bone saw and disposed of after his murder. Graham added: “If [Crown Prince Mohammed] was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty.”

In a statement released last month, Trump proclaimed that U.S. intelligence agencies had not determined whether Crown Prince Mohammed had knowledge of the plot to murder Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump exclaimed, before citing the kingdom’s commitment to buy U.S. arms as rationale for not punishing the Saudi government for the killing.

18 PHOTOS
Murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: Members of the press report from in front of the entrance of the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee Hatice (L) and her friend wait in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, on October 3, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: Security cameras are seen at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: A man passes through police barricades to enter the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Saudi officials gather outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 7, 2018. - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is following the developments on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who has gone missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, to complete routine paperwork. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 07: Official cars are seen parked in front of the entrance of the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 7, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Turkish journalist Turan Kislakci head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association talks to the media outside of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 7, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. According to a Turkish unnamed government official the prominent Saudi journalist was murdered inside the Saudi mission in Istanbul after he went missing. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: An entrance sign is seen at the front of the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: The Saudi Arabia national flag is seen above the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: Members of the media film and report outside the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
A general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014. The pan-Arab satellite news broadcaster owned by billionaire Saudi businessman Alwaleed bin Talal will go on air February 1, promising to 'break the mould' in a crowded field.AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Saudi diplomatic vehicle leaves the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 3, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee Hatice (L) and her friends wait in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, on October 3, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee waists beside an entrance to Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 4, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
An employee of the consulate checks a diplomatic vehicle in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 4, 2018. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Trump said Saudi Arabia had pledged to “spend and invest $450 billion in the United States,” much of it “on the purchase of military equipment.”

Graham made it clear Tuesday that he disagreed with Trump’s moral calculus.

“I cannot support arms sales to Saudi Arabia as long as he’s in charge of this country,” Graham said of the crown prince.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also left the briefing with Haspel more certain of bin Salman’s role in the killing. Corker said there is now “zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder and he was kept apprised of the situation all the way through.”

In a Monday interview with CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued to side with the president that the intelligence assessment on Khashoggi’s death was inconclusive.

9 PHOTOS
President Donald Trump with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
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President Donald Trump with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 20: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) poses for a photo with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (L) of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center top, watches President Donald Trump, right, passing by as Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, looks on while leaders gather for the for the family photo of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center top, watches President Donald Trump, right, walk past as Brazil's President Michel Temer, left, stands by while leaders gather for the group photo at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Leaders from the Group of 20 industrialized nations are meeting in Buenos Aires for two days starting today.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, top right, watches President Donald Trump, right, walk past while leaders gather for a group photo at the start of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Russia's President Vladimir Putin stands second from left. Brazil's President Michel Temer stands below the prince. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame stands top left. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 20: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (L) of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 20: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI KINGDOM COUNCIL / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) U.S. President Donald Trump (5th R) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (6th L) of Saudi Arabia hold an inter-delegation meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks while Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's crown prince, left, listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are developing an increasingly close partnership, encompassing everything from isolating Iran to bolstering business ties beyond energy into technology, defense and entertainment. Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg
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“I have read every piece of intelligence that’s in the possession of the United States government,” Pompeo said. “And when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Graham scoffed at the notion that uncertainty remained as to bin Salman’s complicity in the killing, saying one would “have to be willfully blind” to come away with the opinion that he might not have known about it in advance.

“I went into the briefing believing it was virtually impossible for an operation like this to be carried out without the crown prince’s knowledge,” Graham told reporters. “I left the briefing with high confidence that my initial assessment of the situation is correct. I left the briefing being amazed by our CIA and intelligence community’s capability and their analytical reasoning. The CIA, in my view, rose to the occasion, in terms of informing the Congress about what happened on October the 2nd.”

Last week, the Senate rebuked Trump by voting 63 to 37 in favor of a resolution that would end U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Many senators cited a cancelled briefing by Haspel on the Khashoggi matter as rationale for their vote. Now that Haspel has briefed a select group of Senators, however, opposition to Trump’s stance on Saudi Arabia does not seem to be easing.

“Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs. We’ll do more damage to our standing in the world and our national security by ignoring MBS than dealing with him.”

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