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 CorkerEx-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' Pollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump 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 - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Dems charge ahead on immigration Biden and Bernie set for clash MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.).

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKushner saying immigration plan will be 'neutral' on legal admissions: report Africa's women can change a continent: Will Ivanka give them her full support? If you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 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 MattisNew 2020 candidate Moulton on hypothetical Mars invasion: 'I would not build a wall' Trump learns to love acting officials Shanahan says he's 'never favored' Boeing as acting Defense chief 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 Shelby20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall Conservatives urge Trump to stick with Moore for Fed Poll: Roy Moore leading Alabama GOP field 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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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) MenendezWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange 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