GOP senator: 'No proof one way or the other' crown prince was involved in Khashoggi killing

GOP senator: 'No proof one way or the other' crown prince was involved in Khashoggi killing
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial GOP warns of 'drawn out' executive privilege battle over Bolton testimony  Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses MORE (R-Wis.) said early Thursday that there is no proof that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was or was not involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I have no proof one way or the other," Johnson said on CNN's "New Day" when asked to answer yes or no as to whether the crown prince was involved.

"I think it's reasonable to assume that he probably was aware of it, but again I have no proof. There is no smoking gun."

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The CIA has reportedly said there is "high confidence" that the crown prince was involved in Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi's death has spawned international outrage.

Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (S.C.), for example, has said he is certain the Saudi leader was involved and called for a response.

Others in the GOP have taken a softer tone toward the kingdom.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump denies telling Bolton Ukraine aid was tied to investigations Former senior Senate GOP aide says Republicans should call witnesses Title, release date revealed for Bolton memoir MORE noted last week that the evidence of the crown prince's involvement was inconclusive and indicated he would not push for his punishment.

Like the president, Johnson on Thursday emphasized wider geopolitical considerations to CNN, given what he said was a dearth of evidence. 

"So I kinda set that aside," Johnson explained. "I don't think I'll ever know the answer to that in any positive way or with 100 percent certainty. So now you deal with reality."

"And the reality is we have a horrible situation in Yemen," he said, referencing the proxy war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-funded Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. 

"Nobody likes to see it, and I think the best way to end that situation, to end the slaughter, is America to be involved, to have influence, to bring the parties to the table and force a negotiated settlement."