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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 JohnsonWatch live: Senate panel holds Russia investigation hearing Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus 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 GrahamBiden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country The Memo: Harris moves signal broad role as VP Former US attorney asks for probe of allegations Graham pressured Georgia official 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 TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts 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."