Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.) said Saturday that he believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.
“Everything points to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MbS, ordering @washingtonpost journalist Jamal #Khashoggi's killing," Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted.
"The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders,” he added, using the initials for the crown prince.
Everything points to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MbS, ordering @washingtonpost journalist Jamal #Khashoggi's killing. The Trump administration should make a credible determination of responsibility before MbS executes the men who apparently carried out his orders.— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 17, 2018
Corker's comments come after reports emerged Friday night that the CIA has determined the crown prince ordered the murder of Khashoggi as part of his crackdown on dissent.
President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE declined to weigh in on the reported CIA assessment Saturday morning, telling reporters he planned to speak with the agency later in the day.
“As of this moment, we were told that he did not play a role, we’re gonna have to find out what they say," Trump said.
Corker has emerged as a leading voice calling for the White House to punish Saudi Arabia for its involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, who was a columnist for The Washington Post.
"I have a lot of concerns about the trajectory that Saudi Arabia is on right now, and I think a price needs to be paid," Corker said in a statement Thursday.
Saudi Arabia has offered shifting explanations for the journalist's disappearance inside its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and on Friday denied details of the CIA assessment as reported by the Post.
Khashoggi entered the consulate to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage, but was killed by a Saudi team that reportedly dismembered and removed his body.
The killing sparked an international firestorm, with lawmakers from both parties in Washington calling on the Saudi royal court to be punished.
The Post reported Friday that the crown prince's brother Khalid bin Salman, who is also the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., spoke with Khashoggi and said he should go to the country's consulate to get the marriage documents, providing assurances that he would be safe.
Sources familiar with the call, which was reportedly intercepted by U.S. intelligence, told the newspaper that it wasn't clear if Khalid knew the journalist would be killed when he went to the consulate but said he made the call at his brother's direction.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington issued a statement Friday denying that Khalid had any phone conversations with Khashoggi.
Trump has resisted calls to reduce or cancel an arms deal with Saudi Arabia over the journalist's death. The president views the kingdom as a crucial component of his Middle East policy, including curbing Iran’s influence in the region.
The Trump administration announced Thursday that it was sanctioning 17 Saudi officials in relation to Khashoggi's killing, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former top aide to the crown prince who the Treasury Department says was part of the “planning and execution” of the operation.
The sanctions mark the United States's most sweeping punishment to date of Saudis over the journalist's death.