GOP senators say Saudi crown prince complicit 'to the highest level possible' in Khashoggi murder

Key GOP senators left a briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel convinced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters that if the crown prince were to go before a jury “he’d be convicted in 30 minutes.”

"Crown Prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening, planned it in advance,” Corker said after participating in a closed-door meeting with Haspel and other top-ranking senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump says he will meet with Schumer 'ASAP' after border visit Dem senator describes 'overcrowded quarters,' 'harsh odor' at border facilities Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties MORE (D-N.Y.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Democrats should rise above and unify against Trump's tweets US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' MORE (R-S.C.) called the crown prince a “wrecking ball” who is “complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible.”

“There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw. … You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi,” Graham said, contradicting Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Watchdog: Former Pentagon spokeswoman misused staff for personal errands MORE, who told reporters last week that there was “no smoking gun” connecting Crown Prince Mohammed to the killing.

"I would really question somebody's judgment if they couldn't figure this out — it is there to be figured out,” Graham added.

Haspel briefed the select group of senators after Graham threatened to hold up Senate business, including a must-pass funding bill, until the CIA director shared intelligence on the crown prince’s role in the killing.

The Senate is set to take up later this week or early next week a measure that would end U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen's civil war. Members have also floated additional sanctions on those believed to be behind Khashoggi’s killing.

The question is how to punish the crown prince without hurting the country, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Schumer warns Mulvaney against drawing hard lines on budget deal MORE (R-Ala.) said.

"Somebody should be punished. Now the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation itself? That might be the real policy,” Shelby said as he left the briefing.

Corker said that some in the Senate want to address the “killing of the journalist” while others "want to speak to the Yemen issue at large, trying to pool that together in a manner that's unified in Congress is difficult.”

“It would be really easy for the president to walk out into the press room today and just state that MBS killed a journalist, we know we killed a journalist, we know he ordered it, we know that he monitored it — these all people that are very close to him. And that is not acceptable for American standards,” Corker added.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE has repeatedly refused to blame Crown Prince Mohammed directly for the slaying, saying “we may never know” who was responsible.

"If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake," he told reporters last month.

"Right now, we have oil prices in great shape. I'm not going to destroy the world economy and I'm not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia."

For his part, Graham plans to introduce a statement officially implicating the crown prince in the death, coupled with sanctions set forth in the Magnitsky Act — a measure he introduced with Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Pompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors MORE (D-N.J.)

"I will try to work my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to send a statement before the end of this Congress, that in fact the crown prince was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, that during his tenure as crown prince he's put in the region in chaos and has undercut the relationship and I cannot support arms sales to Saudi Arabia as long as he is going to be in charge of this country. The war in Yemen has gotten out of control, the brutality of this murder is beyond my sharing it with you,” Graham said.

— Molly K. Hooper